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Marking his 100th birthday, an impressive display of legendary artist Wayne Thiebaud’s work -- called Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings -- will make its way to the Toledo Museum of Art on February 6.

Thiebaud makes generous use of a bright, colorful palette, and is perhaps best known for his lifelike paintings of pies, cakes, and other desserts.

The exhibit, which has been at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, features works from the Crocker Art Museum and others from the Thiebaud family collection -- some of which have never been seen publicly before. The exhibit includes depictions of desserts as well as still lifes, figural studies, landscapes, and urban environments.

Street and Shadow, a painting by Wayne Thiebaud.
Wayne Thiebaud, Street and Shadow, 1982–1983/1996. Oil on linen, 35 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist's family, 1996.3. © 2020 Wayne Thiebaud / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

A Unique Perspective

Like other painters of his generation, Thiebaud began his career as a commercial artist. He served as an apprentice in the animation department at Walt Disney Studios, was a freelance cartoonist, a graphic artist and cartoonist in the Air Force, and attended graduate school and taught art at what is now Sacramento City College, the Crocker Art Museum explains. He later received his Bachelor and Masters of Arts degrees from California State University, Sacramento, and went on to teach art for more than 30 years at UC Davis.

Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings is curated by Scott A. Shields, associate director and chief curator at the Crocker Art Museum, which has collected Thiebaud’s work since early in his career. The subjects of Thiebaud’s work are often “man-made, mass-produced, or somehow manipulated,” Shields wrote.

“In terms of his still lifes, food is rarely straight from the garden (or orchard) but is processed and often laid out cafeteria-style, in orderly rows and display cases. He also frequently showcases a single type of food, such as pie or ice cream, a departure from the random assemblies of disparate objects so often depicted in the still lifes of art-historical tradition,” Shields wrote. “Thiebaud’s landscapes also demonstrate human manipulation, which he then transforms still further. This is certainly the case with his city scenes, which he conceives through an assembly of sketches that he combines into fully realized paintings and prints with dizzying results.”

For example, in Pies, Pies, Pies, one of Thiebaud’s most well-known works, numerous pie slices are laid out in precise lines on a diner counter.

Watermelon and Knife, a painting by Wayne Thiebaud.
Wayne Thiebaud, Watermelon and Knife, 1989. Pastel on paper, 8 5/8 x 9 7/16 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist's family, 1995.9.30. © 2020 Wayne Thiebaud / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

On the other hand, Thiebaud’s still life Watermelon with Knife depicts a watermelon that someone has cut -- and left the knife stuck in the watermelon.

“Wayne Thiebaud’s works are a visual feast and highly accessible, which means they will appeal to audiences of all ages when this exhibition opens in Toledo,” Diane C. Wright, Toledo Museum of Art’s interim director of curatorial affairs, said in a statement. “Yet when you look closely at Thiebaud’s paintings, prints, and drawings, you see that they are so much more than realistic depictions of food and everyday scenes. They are layered with his personal interpretations and feelings about the human influences on objects and places that might otherwise be ordinary, but in his hands become something more.”

Visiting The Exhibit

Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings will open at the Toledo Museum of Art on February 6 and run through May 2, 2021. The exhibit is accompanied by a book featuring illustrations of the works in the exhibit as well as additional background and photographs.

Information about tickets, hours of operation, and special hours for at-risk populations can be found on the museum's website.

And while you're in town, check out these things to do in fantastic Toledo, Ohio. It’s a Midwestern city full of art, gardens, and history.

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