At 97, Still Life Painter Wayne Thiebaud Commands a Price

The Sacramento resident was also a beloved arts professor for over three decades.

One of the world’s best-selling, living artists is 97 and resides in Sacramento. His name is Wayne Thiebaud.

“He may not be a household name on every block, but he’s a familiar (and welcome presence in the world’s most prestigious auction house catalogs,” notes a story that recently ran in Sactown Magazine. “In 2015, Artnet ranked Thiebaud as the sixth highest-grossing living artist over the last 10 years, with sales reaching upwards of $163 million. In 2013, a painting featuring two slot machines fetched $6.3 million, a new record for his work.”

Not bad for a man who started his career as a college art professor, first at Sacramento City College and then at UC Davis. Born in Mesa, Arizona, Thiebaud moved to Long Beach as an infant. During one summer in his teen years, he apprenticed at Walk Disney Studios on drawing “in-betweens” of Goofy, Pinocchio, and Jiminy Cricket at a rate of $14 a week. Following military service during WWII, he moved to San Jose and then Sacramento, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

It was during the mid-’50s that he spent time in New York City, befriending such art luminaries as Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Inspired by their abstractionist work, and that of proto-pop artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, he started painting a series of small paintings based on images of food displayed in windows—pies, ice cream cones, pastries—focusing on their basic shapes. By the early ’60s, he would be featured in his own solo show and soon alongside artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Edward Ruscha.

You can read more about Thiebaud and view some of his work here.

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