For over half a century, Thiebaud has produced works that are painterly investigations of American life through its objects, people, streets and landscapes, always realized in a beguiling, but highly controlled manner. Thiebaud looks for larger truths in small gestures and some of his smallest works are among the most tantalizing, with each precise brushstroke producing so much detail that even the smallest work comes alive with excitement and color.
Thiebaud's paintings of cakes and confectionary are among the highlights of his career. In them, he does not merely imitate, but rather enlists his paints to fashion his compositions like a confectioner, using his brush and palette knife in the place of fondant and gum paste tools to shape and model his impasto. Using similar skills and techniques, Thiebaud applies his medium to the surface of the canvas and in the process creates a delicious and tantalizing optical experience that excites epicurean anticipation.
Wayne Thiebaud was greatly inspired by the achievements of Richard Diebenkorn and other California-based artists working in the 1950s. At the time, Thiebaud was a commercial artist, and it is this "low art" sensibility that he brings to the lofty formal and painterly ambitions of both the New York School and the California artists'. Thiebaud's still life depictions of food trays, pies, hot dogs and candy machines hit a nerve with a New York scene that was beginning to bear witness to the rise of Pop Art.
What distinguishes Thiebaud from this group, however, is the painterly richness of his canvases. Unlike the silk-screens of Warhol, the Benday dots of Lichtenstein, and the slick surfaces of Rosenquist, Thiebaud's work is a result of his love for the manipulation of paint as well as the representation of everyday things.