Artist Wayne Thiebaud, whose luscious, colourful paintings of cakes and San Francisco cityscapes combined sensuousness, nostalgia and a hint of melancholy, has died at the age of 101.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, his death was confirmed in a statement on Sunday by his gallery, Acquavella, which didn’t say where or when Thiebaud died. “Even at 101 years old, he still spent most days in the studio, driven by, as he described with his characteristic humility, ‘this almost neurotic fixation of trying to learn to paint,'” the gallery’s statement said.
The dean of California painters, Thiebaud drew upon his earlier career as a Disney animator, sign painter and commercial artist.
While some took his hot dogs, bakery counters, gumball machines and candy apples to be examples of pop art, Thiebaud never considered himself to be in the mold of American artist Andy Warhol, and he did not treat his subjects with the irony the pop movement championed.
He had once said, “Of course, you’re thankful when anyone ever calls you anything. But I never felt much a part of it. I must say I never really liked pop art very much.”
The real subject, many critics said, was paint and the act of painting itself: the shimmering colour and sensuous texture of the thickly applied paint. He laid on the paint so heavily that he often carved his signature into the painting instead of putting it on with the brush.
“The oil paint is made to look like meringue. And with the cakes, you get this great sense of texture with the frosting. You just want to step close and lick it,” said Marla Prather, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art New York who helped organize a 2001 retrospective of the artist’s work.
Many of his painted images were outlined in neon pinks and blues that made the objects appear to glow. Shadows were often a rich blue.
In 2004, a news outlet’s writer had praised his “wry vision of modern consumerism” and said, “No one did more to reanimate the tired old genre of still life painting in the last half-century than did Mr Thiebaud with his paintings of industrially regimented food products.”
Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona, in the year 1920 and grew up in Sacramento, California. He started out as an animator for Walt Disney and later worked as a poster designer and commercial artist in California and New York before becoming a painter.
He also was a longtime professor at the University of California, Davis. He officially retired in 1991 but continued teaching one class a year, as per The Hollywood Reporter.