Sweet Life: Quick Bite

Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re serving up a slice of Caged Pie (1962) by Wayne Thiebaud. On display at the San Diego Museum of Art, this sweet piece is a still life with a modern twist.

Caged Pie (1962) by Wayne Thiebaud, San Diego Museum of Art, Photo by cjverb (2019)

A lone piece of pie, trapped inside a display case, peeks out at us. Partially in shadow, it’s smooth crust and purply fruit are a scrumptious splash of color against a vanilla background. Zoom in and notice the blue-green trim of the case, purple-blue smudges of fruit on the plate, and Thiebaud’s lush, frosting-like brushstrokes. Caged Pie is a feast for the eyes and a sweet symbol of Americana. How about we grab a fork and perhaps a scoop of ice cream and liberate this wily beast?  😉

Caged Pie (close-up; 1962) by Wayne Thiebaud, San Diego Museum of Art, Photo by cjverb (2019)

Wayne Thiebaud (1920) was born in Mesa, Arizona, however, when he was 6 months old, his family relocated to Southern California. At age 16, Thiebaud began an apprenticeship at Walt Disney Studios as an in-betweener, sketching in sections of scenes animators left unfinished. After graduating from high school, Thiebaud began his career in commercial art and illustration.

Yellow Mickey Mouse Cake (1998) by Wayne Thiebaud, WikiArt (Fair Use)

During World War II, Thiebaud put his artistic talent to use in the Army Air Force Special Services Department. He was eventually transferred to the First Air Force Motion Picture Unit which was responsible for producing 400+ training and pro-war films.

Left: Three Sandwiches (1961) by Wayne Thiebaud, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Right: Jackpot Machine (1962) by Wayne Thiebaud, Smithsonian American Art Museum

After the war Thiebaud earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Fine Arts. Inspired by the artful display of desserts in local bakeries and restaurants, Thiebaud began his sweet still lifes in the mid-1950s. At the time, there were only a few galleries in Sacramento, so Thiebaud negotiated to have his art displayed in restaurants, stores, and theater lobbies.

Once I painted pies I thought no one would be interested in them, it seemed like a silly thing to do. But as I did it and got interested, I couldn’t leave it alone. I looked at all the other things that I thought had been overlooked. Like rows of beautiful round suckers or candied apples or gum ball machines or all of the things which we use in displays in windows on tops of counters.  ~Wayne Thiebaud, Interview with Acquavella Galleries, Nov 13, 2020

Refrigerator Pies (1961) by Wayne Thiebaud, WikiArt (Fair Use)

In 1960, Thiebaud accepted a teaching position at the University of California Davis, where he taught for 31 years. Although some consider his work, pop art, Thiebaud disagrees. Where pop art can be flat and emotionless, Thiebaud’s art is warm, lush, and conjures emotions of nostalgia. Like our sweet Caged Pie.

Left: Neapolitan Meringue (1986-1999) by Wayne Thiebaud, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Right: Cakes (1963) by Wayne Thiebaud, National Gallery of Art, WikiArt (Fair Use)

This past Sunday (November 15th), Thiebaud celebrated his 100th birthday. An avid tennis player, he paints almost every day. In an interview with Aquavella Galleries just a few days before his centennial, Thiebaud was hoping for a slice of lemon meringue pie (his favorite!) to celebrate.

Lemon Meringue Pie (1964) by Wayne Thiebaud, WikiArt (Fair Use)

In addition to his sweet still-lifes, Thiebaud has a colorful collection of landscapes, portraits and much more. Click on this Wayne Thiebaud link, courtesy of WikiArt, as well as this Smithsonian American Art Museum Wayne Thiebaud link to feast your eyes on more of his delicious work.

That wraps up our look at sweet still-lifes. I’ll be off next week celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. See you in two weeks. Until then be safe, be kind and take care 🙂

Cover photo by Bernadette Wurzinger, courtesy of Pixabay.


Acquavella Galleries: Wayne Thiebaud

San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego Museum of Art: Caged Pie (1962) by Wayne Thiebaud

Sartle.: Cage Pie (1962) by Wayne Thiebaud

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Wayne Thiebaud

The Art Story: Wayne Thiebaud

UC Davis Office of Research: Recipients of 2016 UC Davis Chancellor’s Innovation Awards

WikiArt: Wayne Thiebaud

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