A dedicated auction of work by the American painter Wayne Thiebaud, from Prints to Works on Paper, all coming from his Private Studio will take place on September 29 in New York at Christies. The sale will include 97 lots that were chosen by Christie’s in partnership with the artist. Each work was selected for its ability to illuminate Thiebaud’s prowess as a draftsman and printmaker, a vital but lesser known facet of the artist’s oeuvre. Auction highlights will be on view at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, where the artist has done the majority of his printmaking over the past 63 years. The exhibition will be free and open to the public from September 7-10.
Richard Lloyd, Christie’s Global Head of Prints and Multiples, stated: “It is an honour to have been entrusted with this remarkable body of works on paper by Wayne Thiebaud. This auction shines the spotlight on Wayne’s mastery of a great range of mediums and his commitment to the art of printmaking. He is an artist who never tires of experimenting and reinventing, and this sale is a testament to the remarkable work that has resulted from his enduring curiosity.”
This comprehensive selection of prints and works on paper demonstrate Thiebaud’s love of working in a variety of mediums and his skilful application of their required techniques. The group encompasses 15 different printmaking methods and is highlighted by examples that Thiebaud has reworked using watercolour, pastels, and coloured pencils. When asked about his exploration of so many different printmaking media and mixed media he remarked, “Yes, I can sin in any medium.” Adding, “It’s all about the suspense and excitement of finding out how something can be made and continues an aspect of continuing research.”
All proceeds from the sale will benefit the Wayne Thiebaud Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation that serves to house archives and arranges educational exhibitions.
Charlie Adamski, Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked: “It has been a privilege and a delight to work directly with Wayne throughout the course of this project and experience firsthand his dedication to pushing the boundaries of working on paper. We look forward to sharing highlights from this exciting collection with San Francisco when we tour to Crown Point Press in early September.”
Leading the sale is Levees and Dikes (Green River turn) (estimate: $350,000-450,000). Drawn in 2000, Levees and Dikes (Green River turn) is a clear example of Wayne Thiebaud’s mastery of medium, composition, colour and light. The soft mint green glow of the winding river dramatically defines the composition drawing in the viewer to consider the contrasting linear patterns of the surrounding farmlands. Most well-known for luscious still life depictions of sweets and cakes, Thiebaud has also considered the landscape in depth throughout his artistic career, focusing on the vertiginous streets of San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s, and the river deltas in the 1990s. In the mid1990s, Thiebaud began taking his easel to the levees of the Sacramento River to sketch en plein air. Gathering his impressions of the river and its surroundings at varying times of the day and in different seasons, he would return to his studio and combine his observations to create his ultimate compositions, Levees and Dikes (Green River turn) being a prime example.
The sale includes an example of Delights, Thiebaud’s seminal portfolio of etchings, printed at Crown Point Press, in Berkeley, California in 1964 ($60,000-80,000). The portfolio contains seventeen etchings and encompasses many of Thiebaud’s beloved compositions that he continues to explore in all media. Thiebaud’s wife Betty Jean named the project Delights, a fitting description of this joyful collection of subjects. Delights is the initial product of Thiebaud’s long-standing relationship with master printer Kathan Brown and her print workshop Crown Point Press. Thiebaud was the first artist that Kathan Brown invited to Crown Point with the goal of publishing his prints and the relationship has been prolific ever since, and he continues to produce new work at the studio to the present day. Delights have been exhibited extensively in museum shows devoted to the artist and to Crown Point Press and is considered to be a group of some of the most important etchings in PostWar and Contemporary art.
Thiebaud’s singular depiction of a cupcake in Untitled (Cupcake) ($200,000-300,000), commands the entire composition, bringing the viewer one step closer to succulent bliss. As archetypal American foods, cupcakes recall holidays and family gatherings, which roadside diners intentionally echo in offering a bit of this comfort and nostalgia on the road. Thiebaud’s rendering of these treats effectively evokes the notion of countless shared memories, and he indeed painted such scenes from his memory rather than from life. Thiebaud predated Pop art’s obsession with consumer products and repetition, yet did not share Pop’s satirical approach to popular culture and instead chose to embrace it, celebrating in earnest the aesthetic delights of the commonplace. Through works such as Untitled (Cupcake), Thiebaud celebrates popular pleasures, but also the pleasure of painting.
Also being highlighted is Coastline (Drawing for California Arts Plate) ($40,000-60,000), 1993. Executed in pastel and gouache, Coastline is one of the original renderings that Thiebaud executed for his collaboration with the California Arts Council and the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish a specialty license plate to raise funds for arts education programs across the state. The California Arts Plate is the first nationwide program of its type devoted to raising funds exclusively for the arts. Proceeds from the sales of the plates account for approximately sixty percent of California’s arts budget and an excess of $30 million has been raised to date. The specialty plate adorned with Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic drawing Coastline is a frequent occurrence on roadways across the state.
ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
• WAYNE THIEBAUD Big Suckers, from Seven Still Lifes and a Rabbit aquatint in colours, on Rives BFK paper, 1971 $50,000 – 70,000
• WAYNE THIEBAUD Palm Ridge soft-ground etching in colours, handworked by the artist with coloured pencil, on wove paper, 1988/1998 $40,000 – 60,000
• WAYNE THIEBAUD (B. 1920) Van drypoint and aquatint in colours, hand-worked by the artist in coloured pencil, on wove paper, 1989 $10,000-15,000
• WAYNE THIEBAUD Tie Rows monotype in colours, hand-worked by the artist with watercolour, on wove paper, 1977 $80,000-120,000
• WAYNE THIEBAUD Delta River and Farms woodcut, on wove paper $2,000-3,000
• WAYNE THIEBAUD Gumball Machine, from Seven Still Lifes and a Silver Landscape linocut in colours, on Arches paper, 1970 $10,000-15,000