Wayne Thiebaud

American (Mesa, Arizona, 1920)

Bay Area artist Wayne Thiebaud worked first as a graphic designer and cartoonist before beginning his painting career in the mid-1950s. He combined a number of interests then current in American art: thick, gestural brushwork, everyday subject matter, and commercial imagery.

Thiebaud is best known for his paintings of cakes, pies, and candies arranged in classic diner or cafeteria style. Thiebaud depicts these objects as commodities, their emphasis on appearance as much as taste. He achieved this effect through serial repetition, synthetic colors, and, famously, by painting with a knife, as if he were spreading the "frosting" onto his cakes. By focusing on sugary foodstuffs, Thiebaud updated the traditional still-life genre for the age of mass production and consumption.


From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

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