Wayne Thiebaud - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Allan Stone Gallery, New York
    Carolyn and Joel Gibbs, Massachusetts (acquired from the above)
    Thence by descent to the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “San Francisco is a fantastic city. It’s easy to make it into a pretend city, a kind of fairy tale.” Wayne Thiebaud

    Painted in 1985, the same year as the artist’s major retrospective organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the present lot is a prime example of Wayne Thiebaud’s rich cityscapes. The scene the artist has painted is simultaneously familiar and dreamlike, based in both observation and imagination. Depicting the freeways of San Francisco as it hugs the coastline, the painting is rendered in saturated blues, greens and purples, quintessential to Thiebaud’s colorful palette. Buildings of varying heights are nestled together as geometric forms simplified into blocks of color, while horizontal streets move from left to right, colliding into the gentle curve of the freeway. The resulting image is ever so slightly unbalanced, mimicking the unpredictable and varied topography of the city Thiebaud has chosen to depict. For example, what appears to be the pavement of the road in the lower center part of the composition can also be perceived as the concrete of skyscrapers, as in the upper right quadrant. Combining multiple vantage points into a singular image, Thiebaud creates a tension between the three-dimensional space and the two-dimensional plane, resulting in a dynamic work that challenges the notions of traditional landscape painting.

    The city of San Francisco, where Thiebaud moved in the early 1970s, transformed the landscapes the artist had begun in the 1960s. Upon settling there, the artist developed a distinct style that was inspired by the city’s hilly streets and lush coastline. Of his painting process for the San Francisco scenes, he said, “I was fascinated, living in San Francisco, by the way that different streets came in and then just vanished. So I sat out on a street corner and began to paint them, but they didn’t really work…I went right back in the studio and began to play around with graphite and eraser. I thought it through and then went back to direct observation” (Wayne Thiebaud, quoted in Adam Gopnik, “An American Painter” in Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 2000, p. 58). Indeed, Thiebaud’s painting practice of the late 20th century, while rooted in observation, was honed in the studio. Rather than record exactly what he saw from different viewpoints, the artist re-configured the cityscape indoors, collapsing aerial perspectives into that which is seen from eye-level, and vice versa. What remains, as in the present lot, is a world derived from Thiebaud’s imagination that recalls the terrain of a familiar city. With renowned exhibitions this past year at the Museum Voorlinden in the Netherlands, the first European retrospective of his work, and at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, the sale of the present lot comes in the wake of increased critical acclaim for the California-based painter.


San Francisco Shore

signed and dated "Wayne Thiebaud 85" upper right; further signed and dated "Thiebaud 1985" on the reverse
oil on canvas
28 1/8 x 36 in. (71.4 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1985.

$450,000 - 600,000 

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018