Lot 15
  • 15


800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Wayne Thiebaud
  • Fruit Stand
  • signed and dated 1963; signed, titled and dated 1963 on the stretcher 
  • oil on canvas
  • 43 by 61.2 cm. 16 7/8 by 24 in.


Allan Stone Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist) 
Galleria Schwarz, Milan 
Fänn and Willy Schniewind Collection, Neviges (acquired from the above in the 1960s) 
Thence by descent to the present owner


Milan, Galleria Schwarz, Wayne Thiebaud, June - July 1963, p. 5, illustrated 


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly lighter and more vibrant in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Voluptuous sweeps of oil paint and a confectionary colour palette converge on the surface of Fruit Stand, an early and brilliant example of Wayne Thiebaud’s painterly technique and formidable draughtsmanship. The work belongs to a series of two paintings of the same composition, the larger of which was notably included in the early exhibition of the artist's work which took place in 1968 at the Pasadena Museum of Californian Art. Executed in 1963, the present work exemplifies the sense of desire and seduction most central to the artist’s oeuvre. As seen in Thiebaud’s celebrated compositions of cakes and pastries from the same period, here the artist sets a strategic distance between the viewer’s gaze and its desired objects; a fruit stand on a hot summer’s day appears just out of reach, tempting passersby with sumptuous boxes of fresh cherries, watermelons, bananas, and oranges. Thiebaud’s expressionistic, impastoed surface and harmonious colour palette give his objects an uncanny presence, and the artist’s dreamlike composition appears to negotiate the ambiguous boundary between the ideal and the actual, in turn offering prescient illusions to the great American Dream. Art historian David Anfam affirms, “Finessing the commonplace, Thiebaud is the visual artisan of this late, so casual-seeming enactment of the sacred versus the profane… This is why his sunny art is haunted by the American Dream with its glimpse of possibilities on the horizon of the familiar. The knack is to grasp that Thiebaud’s cheap, familiar and transient things are wedded indissolubly to a larger whole” (David Anfam cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Faggionato Fine Art and travelling, Wayne Thiebaud, 2009-10, p. 9). Reinventing the traditional still-life genre to reflect the age of mass production and consumption, Thiebaud’s compositions retain a nuanced dialogue with art history. Indeed, the complex balance and harmony present on the surface of Fruit Stand allude to a modern fascination with the colour theories of Paul Cézanne. Like his predecessor, Thiebaud looks to the mechanical contingencies of colour, as vibrant hues of red, yellow, orange and green are juxtaposed against cornflower blue shadows; a chromatic variation that endows the present work with an unparalleled liveliness that far surpasses what is expected of an otherwise prosaic subject matter. Thiebaud’s painterly brushwork and radiating colours further recall the whimsical still lifes of Pierre Bonnard, in which extravagant baskets of fruit and buffets of pastries are rendered in soft, pastel hues. Bonnard, too, explored the complexities of light and shadow throughout his work in this genre, and both artists’ compositions exhibit foreshortened angles, flattened expanses, and a clever delineation between light and dark.

Thiebaud is fundamentally a draughtsman, and the significance of drawing, caricature and cartoon is evident on the surface of Fruit Stand. In the summer of 1936 Thiebaud worked briefly as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios in California, before joining the Air Force as a poster designer between 1942 and 1945. He continued to work as a commercial designer for several advertising agencies after his tenure in the military, and began teaching in Sacramento in 1950. The precipice between commercial and fine art is therefore persistently explored throughout Thiebaud’s oeuvre, and it is for this reason that he is most often remembered as a Pop artist. Yet Thiebaud differs from his contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg; his aim is not to criticise American society, but rather to celebrate and remember it. While Andy Warhol’s soup cans present a cynical and ironic commentary on consumerism in post-war America, Thiebaud’s delightful images of every-day objects are careful and sincere – their very aim is to invoke a real and pure pleasure or a shared nostalgia. Finding beauty in the commonplace, Fruit Stand exquisitely presents Thiebaud’s captivating exploration into the transient joys, delights and sentimentality of American life in the 1960s.