Lot 12
  • 12

WAYNE THIEBAUD | Cloud and Bluffs

400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Wayne Thiebaud
  • Cloud and Bluffs
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 24 1/8 by 18 1/8 in. 61.3 by 46 cm.
  • Executed in 1972.


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


Long Beach, Associated Students - School of Fine Art, California State University, Wayne Thiebaud: Survey of Paintings 1950 - 1972, November - December 1972, cat. no. 49 (erroneously titled Clouds and Bluff and erroneously dated 1971-72)
New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud: Recent Works, November - December 1973
Santa Cruz, University of California, Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud: Paintings and Works on Paper, February - April 1976, cat. no. 28 (erroneously titled Clouds and Bluff)
Phoenix Art Museum; The Oakland Museum; Los Angeles, University of Southern California Art Galleries; Des Moines Art Center; Purchase, Neuberger Art Museum, State University of New York; Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Wayne Thiebaud: Survey 1947 - 1976, September 1976 - May 1977, cat. no. 69
New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud: 25th Anniversary at the Allan Stone Gallery, March - April 1986
New York, Frumkin/Adams Gallery, California in the '70s, March 1994
New York, Allan Stone Projects, Wayne Thiebaud, April - June 2016
New York, Allan Stone Projects, Wayne Thiebaud: Land Survey, October - December 2017


Claude LeSuer, Ed., "The Vertiginous Mastery of Wayne Thiebaud," ArtSpeak, March 16, 1986
Ellen R. Cohen, Ed., Wayne Thiebaud, New York 2015, pl. 62, p. 133, illustrated in color (erroneously titled Clouds and Mesa and erroneously dated 1974)
Mark Rosenthal, Ed., Wayne Thiebaud, New York 2016, p. 35, illustrated
Sally Grant, Ed., "The Pleasurable Melancholy of Wayne Thiebaud's Landscapes," Hamptons Art Hub, November 13, 2017, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Known for his sensuous brushwork, strong saturated colors and manipulated spatial designs, Wayne Thiebaud reconstructs the known world into works of abstract purity, capturing texture, light and perspective and intimately fusing form and content. Thiebaud’s landscapes, magnificently exemplified in Cloud and Bluffs, capture the persistent dialogue between realism and abstraction, tradition and irregularity, which has come to characterize the majority of his mature work. His landscapes work within the most traditional confines of the genre, placing emphasis on the physical qualities of the scene, and draw upon the historical antecedents of the French Impressionists thick application of brushstrokes and use of brilliant color as well as Chinese landscape artist’s use of perspective. Yet, Thiebaud challenges the boundaries he also works within – reimagining the landscape genre with his unique combination of bold perspective and brushstrokes that arduously circumvent the allegorical, triumphal, or moralizing stances within the traditional canon of landscape painting. His painted vision neither romanticizes nature nor despairs the anxiety and alienation present in the modern world. Instead, they embody and expand upon an underlying theme that connects his extensive and varied oeuvre together: imagery as a forum of formal investigation based on the three interconnected elements of observation, recollection and imagination. Thiebaud explains, “I’m not just interested in the pictorial aspects of the landscape – see a pretty place and try to paint it – but in some way to manage it, manipulate it, or see what I can turn it into” (Gail Gordon, Thiebaud Puts a Visual Feast on Canvas, California Aggie, University of California, Davis 1983, p.2).

In Cloud and Bluffs, Thiebaud perfectly unites representational and abstract forms within a single picture, capturing the mood of the landscape within an improbable composition. Cloud and Bluffs is at once an actual representation and a figment of his imagination – transforming space into pictorial artifice through a reduction to pure forms. Representing a large landmass positioned to one side, predominantly dark forms are set against a pale background creating a glowing, impressionistic atmosphere. The thick brushwork used to create the mass glistens, luxuriously depicting the bluffs in a manner that resembles layers of chocolate frosting covering a cake. Like in Thiebaud’s still lifes where the glossy impastos concurrently channel the swirls of confectionery and the dizzying capacity of paint, his landscapes analogously are comprised of expressive streaks of color that capture the beauty and the drama of the surrounding world. The brushstrokes become representational markings while maintaining their status as pure strokes of pigment. The geometric planes of color in Cloud and Bluffs, layered in contrasting and related hues, simultaneously create depth and flatness, evoking a sense of three dimensionality while maintaining the tactile quality of the canvas in his heavily applied paint. 

Thiebaud was distinctly interested in confusing the reading of space in his landscapes. “Landscape for me took on the problem of composition,” he remarked. “I wanted to eliminate the horizon line, to see if I could get a landscape image that didn’t use a horizontal fixation. Instead, I try to establish a positional directive for the viewer – whether it’s up, down, helicopter view, world view, valley view – to try and get some sense of the loss of the convenience or comfort of standing and looking at things, to throw people off a bit” (Gail Gordon, Thiebaud Puts a Visual Feast on Canvas, California Aggie, University of California, Davis 1983, p.2). Playing with equilibrium and dislocation, Thiebaud’s landscapes meld conflicting viewpoints into a cohesive whole. Asked to define his theories on “integrating several projective systems into one,” Thiebaud explained: “A single point perspective, where you look at a railroad track, that’s one system… Cézanne’s paintings have eight or nine perspectives, various views of the same still life viewed from several angles and trying to incorporate that into one. Chinese perspective – which is the opposite of one-point perspective – where instead of the railroad tracks vanishing, they’re coming into you.” (The artist cited in an interview with the Academy of Achievement, May 27, 2011) The heightened foreshortening of the bottom of the bluffs, the geometric pillars of color tilted to recede into the back of the canvas, and the white highlight on the top right of the sun on first glance seem to situate the viewer of Cloud and Bluffs in a comfortable vantage point at the bottom of the hills. Yet, the tops of the bluffs remain visible and the geometric lines of color improperly recede into the distance, collapsing the viewer’s sense of depth. This subtle manipulation of physical space lies at the core of avant-garde abstraction. From the work of Cézanne and Matisse to his contemporary, Richard Diebenkorn, Thiebaud inherited the challenge of merging spatial illusion with the exploration of the tactile painterly surface.