7
7

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION, SAN FRANCISCO

Wayne Thiebaud
RIVER PONDS
Estimate
800,0001,200,000
JUMP TO LOT
7

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION, SAN FRANCISCO

Wayne Thiebaud
RIVER PONDS
Estimate
800,0001,200,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Curated

|
New York

Wayne Thiebaud
B. 1920
RIVER PONDS
signed and dated 1998; signed and dated 1998 on the reverse and on the stretcher 
oil on canvas
24 by 36 in. 61 by 91.4 cm.
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Provenance

Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998

Catalogue Note

“The world it sees is fantastically rich, almost psychedelically colored [...] (Thiebaud) builds a kaleidoscopic variety of shapes: striped furrows and striated fans, hot pink parallelograms and S-curves, magenta trapezoids locked into high violet-green cypresses." Adam Gopnik in: Exh. Cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (and traveling), Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, 2000, p. 62

Wonderfully rhythmic and sensationally chromatic, Wayne Thiebaud’s River Ponds from 1998 memorializes the artist’s deep connection with California’s Sacramento River Delta—his home for the past several decades—and demonstrates the masterful handling of pigment for which he is known. A particularly warm and sensual example of his Delta Paintings, a series which he began in the late 1990s, the present work captures the Delta’s sinuous, winding rivers and vast agricultural plains, all the while carrying with it the rich legacy of American landscape painting. Testifying to the significance of the series within the artist’s oeuvre, other examples reside in important museum collections including The San Francisco Museum of Art and The Smithsonian American Art Museum. River Ponds exudes a sense of nostalgia and familiarity—much like the artist’s paintings of confections—and it draws specifically on Thiebaud’s fond childhood memories of his grandfather’s California farm: “I plowed, harrowed, dug, and hitched up teams […] and planted and harvested alfalfa, potatoes, corn [...] It was a great way to grow up. These paintings have something to do with the love of that and in some ways the idea of replicating that experience” (the artist in: Exh. Cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (and traveling), Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, 2000, p. 33). Demonstrating the perennial Modernist push-pull dynamic of representation versus abstraction, River Ponds conveys the terrain’s atmospheric warmth through a brilliant composition of color and geometry.


Luscious and melodic, River Ponds exhibits the full range of brushstroke in Thiebaud’s oeuvre. Describing the breadth of movement in the artist’s work, Adam Gopnik writes, “This range of tempi, this variety of brushstrokes not put entirely at the service of description but intended to create a visible rhythm of its own, this jumpy unevenness in the much more concentrated, chamber-music format of Thiebaud’s own work became one of its most distinctive features” (Adam Gopnik in: Exh. Cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (and traveling), Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, 2000, p. 50). The present work is rich with thick long strokes, which striate the surface into organized rows of crops, and staccato moments of brushwork, which fill the canvas with leafy vegetation. Demonstrating an exceptional mastery of color, Thiebaud employs his signature “halation” technique; he juxtaposes warm and cool tones to produce a resounding prismatic synergy that contours and electrifies each form off the surface of the canvas. With its bird’s-eye view, River Ponds places the drama of a gorgeously pink sunset against the unexpected combinations of lime green and neon orange, deep brown and cool indigo. His thick impasto strokes pulsate with a palpable energy and translate the landscape’s uniquely beautiful balance of the natural and the man-made.


The harmonious aura of River Ponds marks a departure from the impossibly elongated and vertiginous proportions of Thiebaud’s San Francisco cityscapes. His keen attention to light and atmosphere calls to mind Claude Monet’s Haystacks, as he attempts “to express various seasons, various times of the day, various vantage points” (the artist cited in: Hilarie M. Sheets, “A Riverscape, From Higher Ground,” The New York Times, 30 September 2010, online). The Delta Paintings take on the storied tradition of American landscape painting; River Ponds draws viewers’ attention to the man-made taming of the great American terrain, much as Thomas Cole did a century and a half before. In addition to its art historical resonance, River Ponds conveys a modern sensibility with recognizable California roots. Thiebaud’s demonstrable tension between abstraction and realism calls to mind the powerfully abstracted Northern California landscapes of his contemporary Richard Diebenkorn.


With its invocation of the sublime beauty of the American West, viewers luxuriate in the sensual pleasure of River Ponds. They sense the calm yet structured environment; they feel the incalculable allure of life in the Delta. In terms particularly evocative of the present work, Allan Stone, gallerist and longtime devotee of Thiebaud’s work, writes: “These landscapes are fanciful yet grounded. They are airy yet planted. They are fluid yet mappable. The viewer can river-float through a landscape, balloon-float over a landscape, and yet plant corn all at once” (Allan Stone in: Exh. Cat., San Francisco, Paul Thiebaud Gallery (and traveling), Wayne Thiebaud: Riverscapes, 2002, n.p.).

Contemporary Curated

|
New York