See Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings at the McNay Art Museum
A special exhibition celebrating Thiebaud’s centennial is on view Oct. 28-Jan. 16.
Strawberry ice cream, Boston cream pies, colorful bowties and symmetrical streetscapes become vibrant subjects in works by Wayne Thiebaud on display at the McNay Art Museum starting today, Oct. 28.
The exhibition, Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, was organized in celebration of the California-based artist’s 100th birthday and has toured throughout the U.S. before closing its run in San Antonio, just a few weeks before Thiebaud’s 101st birthday on Nov. 15.
“He elevates these very common things to a different place, which makes them universal,” says René Paul Barilleaux, head of curatorial affairs at the McNay.
Standing near a painting of a slice of pie during a recent media tour of the exhibition, Barilleaux said it’s only when you’re up-close with Thiebaud’s pieces that you can truly appreciate the artistry of them, whether the shadow of a pie on a table or the sweat of an ice cream cone that’s on the verge of melting. Throughout his work, whether realist or abstract, Thiebaud uses repetition, symmetry and texture.
“It’s just beautiful the way he can drag a brush across the surface,” Barilleaux says. “His subjects are just an excuse to put paint down.”
Assistant curator Lauren Thompson says they organized the exhibit by theme, starting with food because it’s the subject Thiebaud began with as an artist and because it’s one that’s accessible to everyone. After portraits of everyday food—the kind you could find at diners and cafeterias around America during the 1960s when many of them were painted—guests will walk into the middle section of the gallery and see several of Thiebaud’s portraits, including some that feature his wife. Drawings and paintings of clowns, which are among Thiebaud’s most recent work, also are on display here.
“His food paintings were created from memory, but he realized he couldn’t do that with people,” Thompson says, adding that he relied on models, often his family.
The final section includes several of Thiebaud’s landscapes. Instead of portraits of specific streets or places, Thompson says Thiebaud creates scenes that are composites of several places.
The exhibit is the largest survey of Thiebaud’s work in the last two decades, Thompson says, and includes works from the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and the Thiebaud Family and Foundation collection. Many of them have never been on public display before.
Before becoming an artist, Thiebaud served in the military, where he worked as a cartoonist and graphic designer. After completing his service, he worked as a designer with Rexxar Drug Co. before returning to school to pursue art.
McNay Director and CEO Richard Aste says Thiebaud is “an artist’s artist,” which is fitting for the McNay as it was founded by an artist.