Pies and cakes and hot dogs... Allan Stone was very puzzled by them, and it took him a year or two to get to a point of saying, “I got the courage to show these damn things." And that’s quite a mark of his ability and loyalty, to take me on and see what he could do. We didn’t have very many hopes. He said to me, “I think you’re a good painter. I don’t know about these, but we’ll show them and we’ll show them.” And that’s what we did.
Wayne Thiebaud and Allan Stone
A Shared Dedication to Seeing
Allan Stone, of the highly regarded, eponymous gallery, was the first person to show Wayne Thiebaud's work in New York in 1962. The two would become life-long friends and business partners, with Allan Stone being the sole representative of Thiebaud's work in New York until Stone's death in 2006. The same year as Thiebaud's New York debut, curator Walter Hopps had put together the groundbreaking exhibition New Painting of Common Objects at the Pasadena Art Museum, which is considered the first survey of Pop Art and included works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and Thiebaud. For a short time in the mid-1950s, Thiebaud lived in New York, but found the atmosphere alienating and did not connect with the brooding anxiety that drove the Abstract Expressionist movement. He returned to California to teach and began painting his colorful, deadpan still lifes of pastries, candy, shoes and everyday objects he would become best known for.
While Thiebaud is often associated with Pop Art, his approach has a distinctly West Coast spirit, at times nostalgic and optimistic, and a concern with the formal properties of light and color that align him with Modernist painters such as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice de Vlaminck and Giorgio Morandi. This is especially prevalent in his landscape paintings, which he began creating in the 1950s and revisited again, in various ways, throughout his career; these blithe and vibrant depictions of his native California serve as an important compendium to his iconic still lifes. Just as with painting a bakery case or a shoe display, Thiebaud was "not just interested in the pictorial aspects...but in some way to manage it, manipulate it, or see what [he] can turn it into." Allan Stone was an important figure throughout Thiebaud's career, passionately representing his work in its diversity, richness and persistence.
I have had the pleasure of friendship with a complex and talented man, a terrific teacher and cook, the best raconteur in the west with a spin serve, and a great painter whose magical touch is exceeded only by his genuine modesty and humility. Thiebaud's dedication to painting and his pursuit of excellence inspire all who are lucky enough to come in contact with him. He is a very special man.