Wayne Thiebaud - Editions & Works on Paper New York Monday, October 24, 2022 | Phillips
  • "Wayne Thiebaud “transform[s] and revitalize[s] those images through his masterly application of color. Whether by a few translucent washes or the near obliteration of an image under a heavy snowfall of powdery pastel, he makes us see with new eyes which we though we knew." — Robert Flynn Johnson, Vision and Revision p. 100

    The simple motif of a bird on a swing, in the hands of Thiebaud, experienced many transformations as he experimented with different mediums and printing processes. In Pet Bird, Thiebaud renders the small creature in a three-quarter view, tail-up, alert and perched on a swing while a dark shadow looms beneath. Thiebaud successfully imbues the delicate bird with unexpected drama and grandeur by silhouetting its bright figure against a dark background, creating an atmosphere of theatricality. The image of the bird perched on the swing evolved first from a drawing and was then rendered in pastel before being realized as an aquatint in colors. The aquatint edition is titled Bird on a Swing from Recent Etchings I printed in 1979. Thiebaud was known to revisit impressions of his etching and aquatint years later and layer them with rich hand coloring. This enhancement technique is exemplified by the two related works Thiebaud produced in 1986: Bird in Swing, a pastel over soft ground etching, and Pet Bird, a hand-colored etching. The extensive coloring of Pet Bird results in a composition that varies from impression to impression, thus a directness is added to an indirect medium and the print is re-energized through the application of other media.

    Left: Wayne Thiebaud, Bird on a Swing, from Recent Etchings I, 1979. Artwork: © 2022 Wayne Thiebaud Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Right: Wayne Thiebaud, Bird on a Swing, 1971. Artwork: © 2022 Wayne Thiebaud Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Thiebaud was the first artist invited to work at Crown Point Press, San Francisco, CA, and he developed a longstanding and close working relationship with the founder and director, Kathan Brown. Subsequently, most of Thiebaud’s printmaking over the past 50 years, including Pet Bird, occurred at Crown Point Press. In fact, the image of the bird never appeared “in the repertoire of Thiebaud’s work on canvas.”1 Brown underscored the importance of appreciating the individuality of the artist in the creative process of printmaking, rather than merely reproducing the imagery of paintings. She recalls Thiebaud’s first visit to her studio in 1964, in which he began to copy images of his paintings onto prepared etching plates, until Brown protested his actions, arguing that “printmaking should be original. What’s the point of copying yourself, or redoing something that’s already been done?”2 Thiebaud took this critique to heart and created a print oeuvre with a depth and richness that highlighted unique images and offered new perspectives on his most iconic subjects. 


    Wayne Thiebaud at Crown Point Press. Artwork: Artwork: © 2022 Wayne Thiebaud Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    1. Bill Berkson. “The Thiebaud Papers” in Vision and Revision: Hand Colored Prints by Wayne Thiebaud. 94.
    Kathan Brown. “Ways of Printing, and Some Thoughts on Authenticity” in ink, paper, metal, wood: Painters and Sculptors at Crown Point Press. 34.

    • Provenance

      Allan Stone Gallery, New York
      Patricia and John Roche, New York
      Freeman's, Philadelphia, The Patricia and John Roche Collection, September 18, 2017, lot 98
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Pet Bird

Etching in colors with extensive hand-coloring in chalk pastel and watercolor, on Somerset paper, with full margins.
I. 9 7/8 x 12 1/2 in. (25.1 x 31.8 cm)
S. 22 1/2 x 17 5/8 in. (57.2 x 44.8 cm)

Signed, titled and dated in pencil (there was also an edition of 50 without hand-coloring) published by Parasol Press, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

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212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24 - 26 October 2022