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Sweeping retrospective of Wayne Thiebaud’s career opens at Toledo Museum of Art in early 2021

Toledo Museum of Art Great Art Escape
Glowing Garden

The year 2020 marks the 100th birthday of legendary American artist Wayne Thiebaud. The breadth of Thiebaud’s captivating imagery in a variety of media and genres will be celebrated in a major exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) in 2021. Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings brings together works from the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California – the foremost repository of Thiebaud’s output – as well as works from the Thiebaud family, many of which have never been publicly on view. The comprehensive exhibition aims to take the full measure of Thiebaud’s expansive career through works that encompass his explorations of still life, figural studies, landscapes, urban views and his best-known subjects: desserts and food counters.  

Wayne Thiebaud 100 is curated by Scott A. Shields, associate director and chief curator at the Crocker Art Museum, which has collected the artist’s work since early in his career. The exhibition debuted at the Crocker Oct. 16, 2020. It will be on view at TMA from Feb. 6 through May 2, 2021. 

“This milestone exhibition – organized by the institution with the deepest knowledge of his body of work – not only reflects Wayne Thiebaud’s remarkable longevity but thoughtfully contextualizes his iconic style and achievements for a truly rewarding visual experience,” said Diane C. Wright, TMA’s interim director of curatorial affairs, who is overseeing the installation in Toledo. “Thiebaud’s inspired and accessible work appeals to a broad array of ages and audiences, and we look forward to bringing it to our Toledo communities.”

With his use of bright colors and patterns, and his depiction of quintessential post-war consumer culture, Thiebaud is often categorized as a Pop artist. However, his interest in a sumptuous painterly technique ­– rather than mechanical reproduction and serialization ­– complicates his affiliation with traditional Pop art. 

From a 1947 self-portrait to the artist’s signature early Pop-inspired repetition of pies, cakes and ice cream, to the flattened landscapes and streetscapes of northern California and his figural studies of family and friends, the exhibition embodies the full range of the artist’s creative concerns through 2019.

Born in Mesa, Arizona, in 1920, Thiebaud moved with his family to Southern California as a young child. His early experience as a professional artist included drawing for Walt Disney Studios and as a cartoonist for the U.S. Army. He subsequently received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from California State University, Sacramento, and went on to teach art for more than 30 years at the University of California, Davis. Thiebaud’s work is included in major museums and institutions throughout the U.S. and has been the subject of numerous exhibitions. In 1994, President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts award, the highest honor awarded to artists and patrons of the arts by the United States government.

The Toledo Museum of Art holds two popular food works by Thiebaud in its collection: the painting Roast Beef Dinner (Trucker’s Supper) (1963) and the print Candied Apples (1964).

Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings is accompanied by a 212-page book of the same title published by Pomegranate. The publication includes illustrations of the works in the exhibition as well as additional background and photographs of Thiebaud and those who informed his artistic legacy.

Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings is organized by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California. The exhibition is sponsored locally in part by 2020 Exhibition Program Sponsors Taylor Cadillac and ProMedica with additional support from the Ohio Arts Council, the TMA Ambassadors and the Rita B. Kern Foundation.Admission is free for Museum members and $12 for nonmembers. Discounts for military, college students and seniors ($10), youth ages 5-17 ($7) and children four and younger (free) are available.