A landscape painting of a river curving from the foreground to the background with farm land on both banks of the river.
Wayne Thiebaud
Flatland River, 1997

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Flatland River
Artist name
Wayne Thiebaud
Date created
oil on canvas
38 × 58 in. (96.5 × 147.3 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis
© Wayne Thiebaud Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

Thiebaud on how space shapes perception

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Artist Wayne Thiebaud talks about Flatland River. 



Flatland River bases itself upon looking a lot at agricultural patterns in the Sacramento Valley, and being influenced by a lot of different kinds of notions of space. 


Western perspective is where the world seems to diminish as it leaves us, like looking down the railroad tracks. Eastern perspective is the opposite. You stand and look out and the world gets larger. And also it’s more inconsistent, it’s not programmatically the same. So what I’ve done in this particular instance is to try to combine the two.  


What you might do is to contrast the two blue-purplish areas, the one on the right the kind of parallelogram and then the one in the upper left-hand triangle. Both represent patterns of agricultural furrowing. The one on the right is one which is more traditionally Western perspective in which you have a central classical vanishing point. In the one on the left, you’re sort of hovering over it in an aircraft, looking almost directly down on it. 


If you develop two colors side by side of equal intensity but difference in hue, difference in color, you then develop a vibration. If you look at the edges, around the edges of many of the forms in Flatland River, you’ll see these little edge lights that try to make a kind of aura or vibration. Around the blue cast shadows, you look closely, you’ll see a kind of yellowish-orange line or halo. What that denotes is an attempt to develop as much energy and light and– visual power and energy that you can in the picture.  

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