WAYNE THIEBAUD (b. 1920) Beach Scene, 1960
Lot 52
(b. 1920)
Beach Scene, 1960
US$ 250,000 - 350,000
£ 190,000 - 260,000

Contemporary Art

14 May 2013, 13:00 EDT

New York

Lot Details
Beach Scene, 1960
signed and dated 'Thiebaud 60' (lower right); signed 'Thiebaud' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
18 x 36 1/8in. (45.7 x 91.7cm)


    Private Collection, California (acquired in the early 1960s in San Francisco).
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Thiebaud's imagery is ultimately the result of three interconnected elements: observation, recollection, and imagination" (John Wilmerding, "Wayne Thiebaud 'The Emperor of Ice Cream'", in Wayne Thiebaud, exh. cat., New York, Acquavella Gallery, 2012, p. 29).

    No other artist has truly pieced together an American memory the way Wayne Thiebaud has done within his lifetime of works. From cakes and lipsticks to rolling California hills and San Francisco streets, Thiebaud's works exemplify what it means to be a painter – manipulating chromatic elements and depth along with never losing the central idea of abstraction. Beach Scene fits nicely amongst his oeuvre of capturing the everyday, heavily stylizing a lifeguard tower that would have been familiar to him during his childhood in Long Beach, California. His uniquely honed ability to unearth the beauty and intricacies in objects and scenes that had been passed over by other artists, along with an intense understanding of his medium, has resulted in a piece that encourages the viewer to observe with fresh eyes our surroundings with restored enthusiasm and enjoyment.

    Like many of his fellow artists, Wayne Thiebaud initially began his career as a commercial artist, including a brief period where he worked for Walt Disney Studios piecing together iconic cartoon scenes. After completing his formal studies at San Jose State University, Thiebaud went to Sacramento in the early 1950s for graduate work. In a break from teaching, Thiebaud went to New York and worked on Madison Avenue, where he met Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Philip Pearlstein, and other prominent figures in the art world. Perhaps one of the most important times in his career, Thiebaud put on a one-man exhibition at Allan Stone Gallery in 1962, which featured his still life pictures of cakes, bottles, and other confectionery delights. During this time, the Pop Art movement burst onto the scene and captured the nation's attention – where artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein thrust ordinary objects onto pedestals – highlighting America's culture of consumerism. What placed Thiebaud apart from his Pop art contemporaries, however was his pure painterly production – where rather than exploring the notion of manufacturing and image making, Thiebaud desired to push the corners of traditional media.

    Further opposing Pop Art's intensified analysis on consumerism, Thiebaud turned towards highlighting the California landscape beginning in the 1960s, which is were Beach Scene comes into view. Often drawing from his own childhood memories, Thiebaud's works lend themselves towards a uniquely comforting idea of American romanticism – highlighting iconic beach imagery that transports the viewer, where their feet grow warm in the sand and their hair is swept back by a salt breeze: "such features tend to transport the familiar yet highly simplified and conceptual objects that Thiebaud sculpts with paint and brush away from out quotidian world where the laws of physics, optics, and weather prevail into his own world where the sun always shines, gravity in inert, and nothing spoils. It is a world constructed equally of memory and longing, and a very pleasant place to be" (S. Nash, 'Thiebaud's Many Realisms', in Wayne Thiebaud: Seventy Years of Painting, exh. cat., Palm Springs Art Museum, 2009, p. 15).

    Only a true master of his medium could make his pictures carry the viewer to a time forgotten, hidden in the annals of their memory – of the warmth and familiarity of nature along side the comfort of sweet butterscotch like sand. This affect is only possible by Theibaud's handling of 'the plastic qualities of pigment which align him to the venerable tradition of American art that takes us back to such nineteenth-century masters as Frederic Church, Albert Ryder, and the late Winslow Homer, plus a few twentieth-century predecessors like George Bellows, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline. What they all share are painterly passages of great expressive power, whether abstract or descriptive. But Thiebaud has demonstrated a special ability to use paint both to describe and imitate a texture at once. Rarely have form and content been so intimately fused." (John Wilmerding, "Wayne Thiebaud 'The Emperor of Ice Cream'", in Wayne Thiebaud, exh. cat., New York, Acquavella Gallery, 2012, p. 9). Thus, only an artist such as Wayne Thiebaud could use paint as a media that harnesses the blissful memories of the past along with the palpable effects of color and light.

    "I think I have such a proclivity towards art history and its uses. I believe very much in the notion that 'Art comes from 'Art'. Chardin has always been on of the people I've loved very much, been thrilled by his work, and I'm sure I've been influenced a great deal by him particularly in specific ways. Chardin was very interested in the idea of the propensity of materials, which fascinates me, how you can take oil paint and make it function for the replication of so many things, and such different things" - Wayne Thiebaud (Wayne Thiebaud, quoted in A. LeGrace, G. Benson and Dd. Shearer, "Documents-An Interview with Wayne Thiebaud, in Leonardo, vol. 2, no. 1, January 1969, p. 65).
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  1. Jeremy Goldsmith
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