Tuesday Tunes: Cake!

Wayne Thiebaud (American, b. 1920)

Rosebud Cakes, 1991-1995

oil on canvas, 40.3 x 50.8 cm (15 7/8 x 20 in.)


Wayne Thiebaud continues a tradition of painting food still lifes that harkens back to the Renaissance.  The great Dutch and Flemish food portraitists sought to represent their subjects’ varied textures with exacting accuracy, lavishly illustrating abundance and the ability of the paintings’ future owners to afford such a bounty.  However, Thiebaud appears to have something different in mind.  Like earlier painters, he renders textures flawlessly, yet his pastries are inexpensive, mass-manufactured foods that can be acquired almost anywhere in America.  Are they celebrations of the ordinary? Explorations of pattern and form?  Or, are they unassuming vehicles for the display of his wonderful brushwork and generous use of color?

Instantly recognizable for their inviting texture and warm, luminous palette, Thiebaud’s images of cakes and pies as well as other store-bought items brought him to international prominence in the 1960s.  His food paintings explore society’s fascination with, and ritualistic treatment of, certain culinary items.

Critics wanted to see irony in Thiebaud’s work of the 1960s, and generally assigned him to the Pop Art genre.  But, he has said, “I see myself as a traditional painter.  I’m very much interested in the concept of realism and the notion of inquiry into what the tradition of realism is all about.” Thiebaud’s formidable talents run to a wide range of other subjects, including figure studies, “aerial” landscapes, and vertigo-producing cityscapes.  But, for now, here are a few more of Thiebaud’s delightful confections.  Enjoy!


Lemon Cake, c. 1983, Oil on paper on board, 11 1/8 x 15 1/8 in.; Cake Window (Seven Cakes), 1970-1976, Oil on canvas, 48 x 59 3/8 in.; Cold Case, 2010-2013, Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.; Cakes and Pies, 1995, Oil on linen, 60 x 48 in.; Three Cupcakes, 2009, Oil on board, 14 1/8 x 11 in.



“Never underestimate the power of frosting.”








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