Wayne Thiebaud's painting Cupcake presents a simple composition of the treat placed, unplated, on a flat surface. In contrast to its bare surroundings, the cupcake is adorned with a foil paper wrapping, lush frosting and is topped with a cherry. Broad bands of cool blue paint delineate the foreground of what appears to be a table, and the background of the room, or possibly open space or sky.
Thiebaud's still-life studies of foods, particularly sweets, have been the hallmarks of his mature style ever since his landmark exhibition at the Allan Stone Gallery in 1962. These compositions reinterpret the traditional genre, and with a nod to the influences of Morandi and Chardin, offer a contemporary meditation on the beauty of form, color and the pleasures of genuine American life.
The sincere appeal of the cupcake (who doesn't love a cupcake? or smile when offered one?) belies the sophisticated realization of a classic painting problem: the challenge of making a cylindrical form within white space visually compelling. Through exquisite use of color and texture, as well as the substantial shadow which adds abstraction to the realist composition, Thiebaud has orchestrated a beautiful, contemplative environment for his cupcake and for the viewer's meditation on the craft of painting.