Who is Wayne Thiebaud, and why is his work, especially the attached image, important?

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alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wayne Thiebaud is an American artist who is generally classified in the "pop art" movement, although he himself did not consider himself to be part of that group, and his work slightly predates the major pop artists such as Andy Warhol. He is an important artists for many reasons, let's go through a few of them. 

1. Wayne Thiebaud's work could only have come from America. The choices he made in his subjects, including brightly-lit, everyday items like pastries, ice cream (as in the above painting) and other items of popular consumption were not usually considered viable subjects in Europe or other world art centers. Thiebaud helped elevate common objects in a uniquely American way and is recognized as an American master. An article on Smithsonian.com put it this way: 

“My own sense is being American is a very important part of what I feel and do,” Thiebaud says. That Americanness, along with his appreciation of commercial art, infuses his work, starting with the pie slices and sandwiches, the pinball machines and drum majorettes that were his early subjects.

2. He continued a great artistic tradition. While others in his generation were looking to the future, Thiebaud's work looks to the past. Specifically the still-lives of European masters like Matisse and Cezanne. What he brought to the table was a unique sense of color, drama, and placement that made his works unique. By building on the great works of the past, but infusing them with his own unique colors, subjects, and playfulness, he created important works that have been prized by collectors and museums. 

3. He is a great painter. Even his critics agree that Wayne Thiebaud is a very talented painter who pushed himself to create great paintings. While the image provided may look simple, the shadows, forms, layers, and deceptively "blank" background all take an enormous amount of skill to achieve. A recent gallery show exhibition write-up had this to say: 

Thiebaud takes a formal approach to issues of color, light, composition and space, stating that his only intention when he paints is to “get the painting to a point of resolution.” This formality lends itself to all of his many subjects and is one the reasons why the masterful quality of his paintings has remained consistent over sixty years.

When you combine his technique, skill, bridge to the past, and unique American approach, you can see why Wayne Thiebaud, and his work, is important. 

pichiwink | Student

Wayne Thiebaud was an artist who painted pictures of still life, food mostly. He did not use very bright colours but his work was supposed to imply realistic aspects of the food. 

The picture is important as it expresses his view on colours that should be used for specific desserts, for example the ice cream will have bright but noit flourescent colours! It shows how he uses colours to create his own style of painting.

Hope it helps at least a teeny weeny bit ^^