Wayne Thiebaud - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Wayne Thiebaud’s Red Farm is an intimate exemplar of the artist’s late painterly landscapes. Investigating the nuances of illusion and symmetry through heavy impasto, the present work employs Thiebaud’s vibrant use of color and brushstroke to reflect on his experiences as a Northern Californian.


    “Painting is a dead flat object and when you’re trying to get some tension, majesty, or ominousness; something has to happen within that structure, to entice people to it with their bodies physically, to experience it.”
    —Wayne Thiebaud


    Heavily influenced by the farmland surrounding his home of Sacramento and that of his relatives in Southern Utah, Red Farm explores Thiebaud’s fascination with Western topography. Highlighting a quaint farm, the painting reflects the artist’s experimentation with perspective through a melding of representation and abstraction. Adopting a highly gestural and painterly style throughout the second part of the 20th century, Thiebaud embraced this fusion, particularly in his later works, and it was through this that he was able to explore the possibilities of developing a “distinctive visual idiom that balances irony, humor, nostalgia and melancholy.”i This balance is especially evident in Red Farm and is emphasized by his use of gestural brushstrokes to create a representational painting. Using vivid swathes of pink, ochre, and violet—the same quintessentially pastel tones used in his celebrated portraits of cakes and candy—to mimic a setting sky over a small farmhouse, Red Farm’s isolated scene is at once beautiful and ominous. The drama of the work is enhanced by the perspective of the viewer: we are far enough from the scene while still just close enough to make out the details of the farmhouse atop a hill. Through Thiebaud’s distinct use of color and perspective, the present work interrogates the typical conventions of landscape painting and adds a new twist to the genre.


    Detail of the present work

    Thiebaud’s signature style references both his art historical predecessors as well as his contemporaries. Pulling from his experiences in commercial illustration, and his association with the Pop Art movement, as well as from art historical masters such as Diego Velasquez, Paul Cézanne and Henri Rousseau, the present work combines the vibrancy of the post-war lexicon with the grandeur of traditional landscape painting. In Red Farm, careful attention is paid to each element—from the red roofed-house to the changing hues atop the mountain it sits on—reflecting an overall concern for the way that light and shadow interact to create the illusion of space. Choosing not to dutifully represent a specific location, the artist’s constructed landscapes arise from a combination of observations, both remembered landscapes and self-invented spaces. This in turn creates a general sense of nostalgia in his works, allowing for the pictures to represent many places at once and, more broadly, comforting visions of 20th century America. In Red Farm, we are undoubtedly confronted with an amalgamation of Thiebaud’s childhood and adult memories living out west, giving the viewer an intimate look into the mind and life of the late artist.



    Fondation Beyeler, Wayne Thiebaud, press release, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, 2023, online.

    • Provenance

      Allan Stone Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud at Allan Stone Gallery: Celebrating 33 years together, September 4, 1994–January 1, 1995, n.p. (illustrated)


Red Farm

signed and dated "Thiebaud 91" on the reverse
oil on board
8 x 11 3/4 in. (20.3 x 29.8 cm)
Painted in 1991.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $127,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023