Sensual encounters with the great master of color nuances
In the USA he was one of the stars of the art scene, but the painter Wayne Thiebaud (1920-2021) is still almost unknown in Europe. The Fondation Beyeler in Riehen BS can now change that with the first solo exhibition in the German-speaking world.
Published: 20 minutes ago
Reality that seems unreal: “Girl with Pink Hat” (1973) by Wayne Thiebaud at the Fondation Beyeler.
The painting is stylistically far from photorealism, yet standing in front of it gives you the feeling that you could reach into the picture and bite into one of those things. The things depicted are pieces of cake spread out on a sideboard in a thoroughly artificial setting.
The illusion of three-dimensionality is created with boldly applied layers of paint that look like lush layers of cream or quark; the contours in sharp strokes in complementary colors red, green, yellow or blue create an optical shimmer that is difficult to resist.
The picture “Piew Rows” from 1961 marks the beginning of Wayne Thiebaud’s career as a figurative pop artist. In an interview printed in the catalogue, the artist, who died in 2021 at the age of 101, says that he was drawn to this motif out of an abstract gimmick, but that with this picture he saw himself as an artist to be taken seriously at the end of his career.
The opposite happened. Americans loved the artist’s works, which captured their world of abundance so aptly – whether in his still lifes or in the many portraits that seem like sculptures brought to life. And finally in the cityscapes, which live from a crass exaggeration of perspective, in which the streets tower up like skyscrapers like on a roller coaster.
Thiebaud mentioned several times in the interview that he had not completed an academic art degree. He came to art as a graphic designer, illustrator and cartoonist. As a reminiscence to the latter – he originally also worked in the Disney studios – a small portrait of Mickey Mouse can be seen, whose shadow can be identified as a film camera.
Wayne Thiebaud’s great and humorously subtle devotion to the American way of life and the unique handling of color nuances have made him a star in the USA. The Fondation Beyeler is now putting him on the exhibition agenda in Switzerland in its series of special exhibitions with figurative artists from the USA. Getting to know each other is possible until May 21st and is very worthwhile.