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Wayne Thiebaud papers, 1944-2001

Biographical Note

Wayne Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1920 and raised in Long Beach, California. After graduating high school, he worked as a free-lance cartoonist, commercial artist, and stage technician. He later landed a job at the Walt Disney studios as an 'in-betweener' filling in individual film frames started by animators. Thiebaud joined the Air Force in 1942 where he painted murals and began to create cartoons and illustrations.
After his service in the war, Thiebaud went to California State College in Sacramento to study art and art history. His work remained figurative but gained a conceptual dimension as he read, studied, taught, and exhibited a great deal in Northern California. During the late 1950s, Thiebaud spent time in New York City with artists such as Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Barnett Newman and other painters of their generation.
Thiebaud's work found its national audience in 1962 with his first exhibition, Wayne Thiebaud: Recent Paintings, at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York and his participation in the "New Realists" exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery during the same New York season. In that memorable year, when Pop Art burst upon the American cultural scene, Thiebaud's more painterly images of food and other familiar objects found an audience that has grown with each passing decade. Thiebaud's exhibition of store counters, suburban consumers, tie racks, cakes and pies seemed to comment upon American consumer culture as did his New York contemporaries. However, his thickly painted strangely illuminated forms had a pathos and a humor that was seldom found in Pop Art. Thiebaud's roots were more likely in the urban melancholy of Edward Hopper and the robust painterly style of Willem de Kooning.
Wayne Thiebaud has served as faculty member of the art department at the University of California at Davis for more than thirty years. At this writing, he lives and works in Sacramento, California while also maintaining a studio in San Francisco. He is still affiliated with the Allan Stone Gallery. Thiebaud's work is currently found in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His recent 2000-2001 retrospective exhibition organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, traveled the nation to critical acclaim and great interest from the general public.