Wayne Thiebaud

Biography of Wayne Thiebaud

American artist Wayne Thiebaud is known for his colorful works that depict commonplace objects such as pies, lipsticks, paint cans, pastries and hot dogs as well as landscapes and figure paintings. Abstract yet also decorative, he utilizes heavy pigments and exaggerated colors to capture a uniquely American sensibility. Thiebaud is commonly associated with Pop art because of his interest in objects of mass culture, but his career predates this movement, suggesting that he influenced the style.


Born in 1920, Wayne Thiebaud grew up in California where he spent his summers apprenticing at Walt Disney Studios. He worked as a cartoonist and designer in California and New York between 1938 and 1949 and served as a cartoonist in the First Motion Picture Unit of the American Air Force during World War II. Thiebaud began teaching at Sacramento City College and University of California in Davis where he lectured until his retirement in 1991. While on a sabbatical from teaching, Thiebaud travelled to New York in 1956 where he became friends with Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. He was much influenced by these abstractionists as well as by proto-pop artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and his background in advertisements and commercial art.


In 1962, Thiebaud’s work was included, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Dowd, in the historically important and ground-breaking “New Painting of Common Objects,” curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum. Since then solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, White Cube in London, The Morgan Library & Museum in New York and Museo Morandi, Istituzione Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna. Thiebaud’s works are held in the collections of major museums around the world including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles County Museum. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994.

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