A quick run-through of Wayne Thiebaud’s bio – in common with that of anyone who reaches a great age – is in part a story of a different world.
Born in 1920, he grew up in California during the Depression. In High School, he had a summer job at Disney (imagine that, kids, not just drawing cartoons at seventeen, but GETTING PAID FOR IT. Minimum wage, for sure, but actual money). After commercial training he worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for more than ten years, both as a civilian and as part of the US forces Motion Picture Unit. After that, a BA and an MA, and fifty-odd years of teaching painting and printmaking as well as producing his own work.
He’s probably best known for his pictures of pies, cakes and sweets, but has also painted portraits and landscapes and in degrees of abstraction; made prints using all kinds of techniques including woodcuts, lithography and aquatint. His colours tend to be pastels and brights; the colours of magazine and commercial art, but that also seem to belong in California – pink and orange, violet and arsenic green.
His work has fallen in and out of fashion more than once within his lifetime; been lumped in with American Modernism and Pop Art and Hyperrealism; collected and copied, ignored and derided. And through all of he’s kept on painting. He has received many awards and outlived many friends, and worked all the while to show us windows on a world that may reference objects that we see every day, but with a distinctive style of his own.
Look at some of his work – with all the virtual exhibitions online at the moment, finding it shouldn’t be hard – and see how the moods and subjects many change, but the fascination with colour and line persists.
Given his enduring love of confectionery, maybe do it after lunch.