Еssay on Artist’s Un-birthday

Wayne Thiebaud is one of the most popular American painters of the 20th century. His works are still popular and draw a profound attention of the audience, especially all those who are particularly interested in the pop art. His works were characterized by a high degree of originality and provoke interest of the viewers. His contribution to the development of the pop art can hardly be underestimated since he played a significant role in the development of new original genres of pop art. His works were traditionally though provoking and quite popular among both ordinary audience and specialists who appreciated pop art.


Born  November 23, 1920

Death Still alive

Country Thiebaud lived in He was born to Mormon parents in Mesa, Arizona, the US but his family moved to Long Beach when he was just six months old.

What was going on in the country and the world The World War II affected the world and the US dramatically. At that period, in 1942 Wayne Thiebaud had to join the US Army Air Force where he served until 1946. This was a very difficult period not only in the life of the artist and his country, but also in the life of the entire world since the World War II brought unseen horrors that could not fail to get imprinted in the memory of Wayne Thiebaud.


How did what was going on in the country and the world have an influence on the artist’s work

Probably, this is due to his impressions from the war, his artistic works were extremely realistic since he saw the real world in its extremes when life was next to death.

Biography details

Speaking about Wayne Thiebaud, it is primarily necessary to say that he perfectly felt the basic trends of his epoch and attempted to reflect them in his creative works. Thiebaud started his work as a cartoonist and advertisement designer that, to a significant extent, influenced his future works. Initially he worked in New York and Hollywood.

His first solo exhibition was at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramaento, and between 1954 and 1957 he produced eleven educational films for which he was awarded the Scholastic Art Prize in 1961. Next year, Thiebaud exhibited for the first time at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York, which was followed by his first solo museum show that became one of the most important events in his life at that period ”“ this was the museum show in San Francisco at the M.H. De Young memorial museum. The same year, he was also included in the landmark group exhibition, New Realists, at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. Nowadays, Thiebaud’s art dealer continues to be Allan Stone, the man who gave him his first ”˜break’ many years ago.


Famous interesting stories related to the artist’s life

Remarkably, the future artist could not even afford his artistic education and his formal art training was paid for by the G.I. Bill, and he studied at San Jose State College and the California State University, Sacramento. Wayne Thiebaud received a teaching appointment at Sacramento Junior College in 1951, while he was still in graduate school. He remained there for eight years. After that he joined the University of California, Davis as an art professor, where he keeps working at the present days.

It is worthy of mentioned that once Wayne Thiebaud has said that Northern California was a pleasant change from Long Beach, and that Sacramento almost seemed a Northeastern city. It had a train station and the leaves even changed color with the seasons.



On analyzing his artistic work, it is necessary to point out that traditionally he is associated with the pop art movement because of his interest of objects of mass culture. Thiebaud has been seen, due to his true to life representations, as a predecessor of photorealism.

What does this style look like

Thiebaud used heavy pigments and exaggerated colors to depict his subjects, and the well-defined shadow characteristics of advertisements are almost always included. Objects are simplified into basic units but appear varied using seemingly minimal means. It should be said that, in all probability, Wayne Thiebaud was influenced by other artists, such as Giorgio Morandi, whose contemplative, palpable and delicate works share many characteristics with those of Thiebaud.

Mediums Oil painting, photography

Analysis of artwork

Favorite subjects in artwork

Basically, Wayne Thiebaud is best known for his paintings of production line objects found in diners and cafeterias, such as pies and pastries. By the way, probably it is due to these peculiarities of his paintings many wonder if he spent time working in the food industry, and in fact he really did. As a young man in Long Beach, he worked at a café named “Mile High and Red Hot”, where ”˜Mile High’ was ice cream and ”˜Red Hot’ was a hot dog.

In addition to pastries, Thiebaud has painted landscapes, streetscapes, and popular characters such as Mickey Mouse. Among his recent paintings, it is possible to single out “Sunset Streets” (1985) and “Flatland River” (1997).

They are characterized by the hyper realism that was traditionally typical to Thiebaud, and it is quite noteworthy that his recent works are in some ways similar to Edward Hopper’s work, who was fascinated with the mundane scenes from everyday American life.

Analysis of “Toy Mickey”

Famous artwork to be discussed

“Toy Mickey”



Medium Oil painting

– Initial reaction

Among the variety of his works, it is possible to single out “Toy Mickey” which is a characteristic of Wayne Thiebaud’s artistic work. Such paintings were actually typical for his work and reflect his past experience of a cartoonist. At first glace the painting evokes quite positive feelings and emotions as it depicts a smiling Mickey Mouse who simply radiates joy and, in all probability, the artist targeted at the child audience while creating this work. In fact, the painting seems to be intentionally simple, if not to say plain, as it depicts only Mickey Mouse on the yellow-brown background. He is smiling and looking directly before him. The painter posed him a bit turned to the right so that it is possible to see his profile and shadow on the floor. He shoved his hands into his pockets and looks joyfully at something that is hidden from the viewer. He wears extremely large shoes that seem to never fit him but, it does not make any difference for Mickey. It is noteworthy that the painting is quite realistic and even the shadow seems to be carefully depicted by the artist. Basically, the painting is proportional, the lines are precise and clear.

Mickey executed in dark colors is depicted in the center of the painting with his shadow on his right. In general the dark figure of Mickey is sharply distinguished on the light background.

– Description of the work

It depicts Mickey Mouse, his hands are shoved into his pockets. Mickey Mouse is in the center of the painting with his shadow on his right. The background is yellow-brown that makes the dark figure of Mickey contrasting to such a background. Mickey’s shadow is also quite realistic as the toy itself. Mickey wears some dark red shorts and shoves his hands into his pockets. He is depicted turned to the right and looking somewhere with a radiant smile on his face.

Also he has some large shoes that seem to be enormous and does not fit him. In general Mickey and his shadow occupy the central position in the painting, thus, underlying the artist’s focus on this character.

– Formal analysis

In actuality, this work seems to be quite simple mainly because it depicts Mickey Mouse a joyful and careless character which was extremely popular among children at that epoch. This is why it is possible to presuppose that children were the target audience. However, on a profound reflection, it is possible to estimate that this painting has a deeper meaning. In this respect, it should be said that Thiebaud depicts a simple character but he depicts him in such a way that this symbol of joyfulness and simplicity turns out to be not so simple as it might have seen at the first glance. His posture and gestures emphasize that, even though Mickey is looking directly somewhere and his appearance express openness and light-heartedness, he still has something to hide. Moreover, this detail brings in a certain degree of irony in the painting making simple image more complicated.

– Interpretation

The image of Mickey should be interpreted beyond his joyfulness and light-heartedness. It is possible to find that seemingly simple character turns out to be full of hidden traits of character, or some hidden emotions of feelings he does not want to really show to others

– Evaluation

As a result it is possible to estimate that the artist has basically met his goals. On the one hand, children, which could be the target audience, would unquestionably like the joyful and just nice image of Mickey, while adult audience would probably be able beyond this joyfulness and light-heartedness and find that seemingly simple character turns out to be full of hidden traits of character, or some hidden emotions of feelings he does not want to really show to others. This is why it is possible to conclude that this painting has managed to produce a desirable effect on the audience as Wayne Thiebaud probably planned to.

Actual Meaning of the work

Actually, the work conveys the joyfulness of life which radiates from the image depicted by the artist.

Other researches

This work is particularly interesting from the point of view of the analysis of light and shadow as the painting is actually build on the contrast between light and shadow that help clearly distinguish the features and all details of Mickey and his mood.

Selecting objects

Taking into consideration the biographical facts and work of Wayne Thiebaud, it is possible to offer the following five objects to present on his birthday.

First of all, it may be a photo camera since he was considered to be a predecessor of photorealism and his works were characterized by high degree of realism, it will be an excellent opportunity to present him the camera saying:

“Happy Birthday! I know your works are always so realistic so I believe with this camera you could make photos and make fun of your friends placing them next to your paintings which are so realistic that are practically undistinguishable from real photos. At the same time, this present will probably open for us a new gift of Wayne Thiebaud as a photographer and, who knows, may be you will become a predecessor of a new movement in photography”.

Another object that may be presented to Wayne Thiebaud is a toy of Mickey Mouse that can symbolize not only his popular work but also reveal the fact that this toy, being the subject of his painting, is still popular and so is works of Wayne Thiebaud. In fact, it is even possible to say:

Happy Birthday! I’d like to present you this toy, which resembles your famous painting. At the same time, Mickey Mouse is the symbol of American pop art and pop culture as well as you are though, judging from the painting, the toy seems to be in your command. So you can continue your experiments and reveal some new hidden traits of character or personality of Mickey Mouse that usually remain unseen to the public. Also, this gift symbolizes that as Mickey are still quite popular among children and thus, so you can still be interesting for new generations as you create such painting as “Toy Mickey” to which this present actually refers” and, in order to increase such a reference the present should be rapped in a yellow-brown paper.

Also it is possible to present Wayne Thiebaud a leaf as a reminding about his own comparison of his move from Long Beach to Sacramento in which he spoke about the leaves as symbols of the changing seasons. It is possible to say:

Happy Birthday! I know you have from Long Beach to Sacramaento and for you changing seasons and falling leaves were quite unusual so I’d like to remind you the days when you were surprised and when you managed to surprise the world with your works. This leaf symbolizes that you have managed to free yourself from the limits of your surrounding reality and depart in the world of creativity. In such a way, you have left the material world for the sake of your creative work like the leave has left the tree. So you are as free in his creativity as the leaf riding the wind”. It is possible to wrap this present in the paper of the color of the national flag of the US which also symbolizes freedom.

The fourth object that could be presented to Wayne Thiebaud is the plastic pastry. It is possible to say:

“Happy Birthday! I really enjoy your painting and every time I see those pastries you depicted so realistically I always get hungry and wonder whether you used the real pastries as models for your paintings or you remembered them from the time you worked at “Mile High and Red Hot”. So I’d like to present you this plastic pantry so that you could remember about it and probably create some new paintings you only need to take this pastry and draw”

Finally, it is possible to present a mirror saying:

“Happy Birthday! I’ve been thinking a lot while I was choosing the present and, eventually, I’ve decided to present you this gift. When you open this box, you’ll see a masterpiece – the portrait of the artist who is one of the most popular painters of the modern American pop art and whose popularity remains inexplicable by logic but may be explained by his genius”.


Making a birthday card for Wayne Thiebaud, it is possible ot use his painting that has been already discussed above, “Toy Mickey” as a symbol of the artist’s eternal popularity. The card may contain the following “Happy Birthday to Wayne Thiebaud, the artist, professor and just interesting person whose creativity makes simple things a piece of art”. As for invitation cards they may contain the following “We glad to inform you that you are the luckiest person as you’ve got a chance to see the legend, talk to the legend, and be present at the birthday of the legend of the modern pop art, Wayne Thiebaud”.

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