ARTnewsletter Archive

Wayne Thiebaud: Still Painting, Still Hip and High-Priced

The majority of the 20 paintings by Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) on display at New York’s Paul Thiebaud Gallery (through Dec. 22) have been bought by private collectors, reports gallery director Kelly Purcell.

NEW YORK—The majority of the 20 paintings by Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) on display at New York’s Paul Thiebaud Gallery (through Dec. 22) have been bought by private collectors, reports gallery director Kelly Purcell. The artworks, ranging in size from 5-by-8 inches to 4-by-5 feet and including city- and riverscapes, still lifes and what the artist calls beach scenes, all made since 2000, are priced from $500,000/3.5 million.

The artist, 87, continues to produce new works, including an occasional cover for a New Yorker magazine food issue. The California-based Thiebaud first came to prominence with his paintings of food, mainly cakes and pies, shown in display cases.

“Wayne is linked to Pop art,” says Purcell—“he would say he is ‘misaligned’ with Pop art.” The artist also is known for his paintings of the streets of San Francisco as well as images of beaches and rivers. His son Paul Thiebaud, who operates galleries in both Manhattan and San Francisco, is now the artist’s principal dealer.

Thiebaud’s paintings have been acquired by major art museums in the U.S., including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, which organized a traveling retrospective of the artist’s work in 2000, acquired a riverscape in 2002; and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Mo., bought a landscape this year.

Thiebaud was long represented by the late New York lawyer-turned-gallerist Allan Stone, who gave the artist his first major exhibit in the early 1960s. Stone went on to represent him for nearly 45 years, until his death late last year. Stone’s gallery continues to sell works by Thiebaud, principally from inventory.

Seventy-one works from Stone’s collection, including eight pieces by Thiebaud, were auctioned last month at Christie’s, and two of them produced the highest public-sale prices yet recorded for the artist. The 1970 oil-on-canvas Seven Suckers earned $4.5 million, and the 1969 oil Tie Rack made $3.4 million; both far surpassed Christie’s $1.4/1.8 million estimates and establishing record prices for the artist.

Two other works by Thiebaud—the acrylic-and-pastel-on-canvas Blue Hill, 1967 (estimate: $1.5/2 million), and the oil Hot Dog with Mustard, 1964 (estimate: $600,000/800,000)—fetched $1.7 million and $1.4 million, respectively, at Christie’s.

Sotheby’s also sold paintings by Thiebaud last month, including Three Cabbages, 1969, which won $2.5 million, more than twice the $1.2 million high estimate; and Ride Ride Ride (Supermarket Horse), 1961, which earned $1,945,000 (estimate: $1.2/1.8 million).

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