Artist Wayne Thiebaud donated a painting and a group of six prints to Laguna Art Museum, which presented him the museum’s California Art Award at a gala dinner last Saturday, Oct. 12.
The award recognizes the extraordinary part he has played in raising the reputation and appreciation of California art, nationally and internationally. It was presented to Thiebaud by actor Val Kilmer, a friend of the artist and collector of his work.
Also honoring Thiebaud at the dinner was Getty president and chief executive James Cuno.
The centerpiece of the gift is the oil painting “Jolly Cones,” in which a pair of upside-down ice creams become cherry-nosed characters in conical hats. Another version of the composition served as the New Yorker magazine’s cover image in August 2002. In that version both ice creams are vanilla whereas in Laguna Art Museum’s they are vanilla and strawberry.
The prints in the gift, which range in date from 1964 to 2012, give a sense of Thiebaud’s longstanding passion for printmaking and his mastery of various techniques–etching, woodcut, linocut, and serigraph.
These are the first Thiebaud works to be added to the museum’s collection of California art. “Wayne’s gift is the latest of his many acts of friendship and generosity toward the museum,” said executive director Malcolm Warner. “But it is especially precious in that we now have a strong group of works to represent him forever in our permanent collection.”
In 2007, the museum hosted “Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting,” a survey of the artist’s work curated by Gene Cooper. In high school, a teenage Thiebaud found work laboriously drawing individual animation frames at Walt Disney Studios. His budding career as a cartoonist and graphic designer was interrupted by World War II. At 30, he returned to college, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, supporting his family by teaching while pursuing a career as a fine artist. He began to paint small canvasses depicting pies, cakes, candy and ice cream cones displayed as in shop windows from memory and imagination.
Thiebaud’s paintings were included in the Pasadena Art Museum’s New Painting of Common Objects, regarded as the first exhibition of pop art in the nation, alongside the work of Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine and Andy Warhol.
Over the years, Thiebaud took up printmaking, continued his landscape series and received numerous honors for his work, most notably the National Medal of Arts, presented by President William J. Clinton in 1994.
Now 92, Thiebaud is still painting and his work continues to delight viewers with the beauty of everyday things.