Beloved American artist Wayne Thiebaud has died aged 101

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American painter Wayne Thiebaud, beloved for his cake-shaped works that captured the American imagination, has died at the age of 101.

Wayne Thiebaud was born to a Mormon family in Arizona in 1920. He grew up on his family farm, soaking up natural scenes during the Great Depression. Beginning his career as a draftsman, Wayne Thiebaud continued his painting career in the mid-1950s. As with artists like Andy Warhol, Thiebaud also focused on imagery of ordinary American life. But while his peers choose criticism and satire, Thiebaud’s art instead focuses on nostalgia and the American dream. This makes him one of the most beloved artists for generations.

Wayne Thiebaud, Pies, Pies, Pies (1961). Courtesy of the Crocker Art Museum

Wayne Thiebaud has often been criticized for appealing to mass appeal at a time when art was seen as a tool of counterculture. But he never paid attention to it; for him, the pretension was a “waste of time”. With thick coats of paint using palette knives, Thiebaud created a niche for his cake-like works. His artistic style draws inspiration from both abstract expressionism and pop culture.

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Wayne Thiebaud has spent most of his life in California. Due to its status as “commercial art,” his works have never been a major attraction at auction. Despite this, Thiebaud eventually became one of the country’s most recognizable and beloved artists. When asked the secret to his long and happy life on his 100th birthday last year, he said: “I spend a lot of time in the studio. I work almost every day. I have a wonderful family who indulge me in this incredible search for the difficulty of making a good painting.


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