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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Wayne Thiebaud
B.1920
NUDE
signed; signed, titled, and dated 1963 on the stretcher
oil on canvas
60 1/8 by 36 1/4 in. 152.7 by 92.1 cm.
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Provenance

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

Exhibited

New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Recent Paintings by Wayne Thiebaud, March - April 1964, n.p., illustrated
Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Nude in Art, November 1964, n.p., no. 119 (as Seated Nude)
Stanford, Stanford Art Museum; and New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Figures: Wayne Thiebaud, September 1965 - April 1966, n.p., no. 5, illustrated
Pasadena, The Pasadena Art Museum; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Cincinnati, The Contemporary Arts Center; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art; and Salt Lake City, Utah Museum of Fine Arts of the University of Utah, Wayne Thiebaud, February - October 1968, p. 58, no. 40 (text)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hayden Gallery at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Contemporary Views of Man, September - October 1971, n.p., illustrated (as Seated Nude)
New Britain, Connecticut, New Britain Museum of American Art, The Body Revealed: Two Hundred Years of the American Nude, April - June 2002, no. 68 (as Seated Nude
New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud: The Figure, April - May 2008, p. 9, illustrated (in installation at Stanford University with Robert Arneson, 1965), p. 17, illustrated in color

Literature

"They Paint, You Recognize," Time Magazine, April 3, 1964, p. 74, illustrated 
Sidra Stich, Alfred Leslie, Philip Pearlstein, Wayne Thiebaud: Contemporary Views of Man, Cambridge, 1971, p. 10, illustrated 
Exh. Cat., Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum (and travelling), Wayne Thiebaud, 1976, p. 15, no. 2, illustrated
Rachel Teagle, Wayne Thiebaud: 1958-1968, Oakland, 2018, pp. 162-163, no. 54 and no. 56, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Exquisite in its execution and striking in its grand scale, Nude is a stunning example of Wayne Thiebaud’s singular mastery of realist painting. Having worked from a live model, Thiebaud reveals his gifted draftsmanship and technical skill in the distinctive individual features of the sitter. Executed in 1963, Nude marks Thiebaud’s decisive shift from the confectionary concerns of previous years to formalist concerns of the human figure, first conducted in that year. The present work boasts an exceptional exhibition history, and, as one of only a handful of Thiebaud’s earliest figure paintings remaining in private hands, is distinguished by incredible rarity. Though it differs in subject matter from his signature cakes, pies, and donuts, this life-size composition still demonstrates the artist’s distinctive technique; with its frontality, symmetry, and directness, the isolated image dynamically projects from its cold white background with fluorescent brilliance. Moreover, the luscious white impasto and candy-colored accents of paint lend the work a kaleidoscopic luminosity that recalls the edible goods painted during this period.

In Nude, as in his other figure paintings, Thiebaud deliberately avoids placing the figure in a context that would lead to an implied narrative. By positioning the figure in a descriptive vacuum, Thiebaud draws out the moments that exist either before or after an action takes place, preventing any particular emotion or mood to attach itself to the subject. As he explained: “It occurs to me that most people in figure paintings have always done something. The figures have been standing posing, fighting, loving, and what I’m interested in, really, is the figure that is about to do something, or has done something, or is doing nothing, and, with that sort of centering device, try to figure out what can be revealed, not only to people, but to myself.” (the artist quoted in Karen Tsujimoto, Exh. Cat., New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud: The Figure, 2008, p. 8) Without any frame of reference, the figure becomes a virtual abstraction, an existential confrontation of facts.

Thiebaud skillfully heightens this impression through his ingenious use of color. The sitter’s body is articulated through strategic highlights of warm coral, honey yellow, and palest lavender, the subtle combinations of which go much further in delineating her figure than do the faint traces of line at her edges. The tones of her flesh are accented by the traces of these colors that gesture at expressing her seat, and by Thiebaud’s signature blue-grey shadows that endow his subjects with remarkable depth and presence. Considering the life-size scale of this work, the figure’s proportions suggest an intimate relationship with the viewer, as we seem to intrude directly into her immediate space; and yet, the blazing spotlight that seems to emphasize and intensify every tone and detail provides a sense of monumentality. Through these deft applications of pigment, Thiebaud has stripped his composition bare, yet maintained all of the impact by using only the most essential elements.

Nude thus represents a masterful treatment of the human figure. Despite its apparent simplicity, its painterly execution and conceptual framework belie a far more complex dialectic. The almost disorienting immediacy of the full-scale figure is still completely inaccessible in her self-contained, impenetrable space. The articulation of her form declares figuration, yet the focus on color and light rather than line or ground suggests abstraction. Nude is enigmatic, raising but not resolving dichotomies, a tableau vivant that illustrates a moment of inexplicable, almost metaphysical evocativeness.

 

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York