Rosebud Cakes

Wayne Thiebaud at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum

Wayne Thiebaud
Y River
oil on canvas
72⅛ x 72 inches
1998

Ainchew cumin ta gitchore creamin sugarn sech?”, Festus asks the Marshal, in the most poetical description of a cake I know. Eggs and cream and sugar weren’t plentiful out West, let alone bakeries. The furthest thing from a cowboy’s mind would be a frosted cake, perhaps, but the prospect on a festive occasion is a moment of relaxation combined with keen gustatory delight. “Memory and desire” is a phrase that comes to mind.

The paint can is a motif in Thiebaud’s work. It holds a color in its metal cylinder, and stands in a group of colors similarly situated. Pure oppositions of color are cast shadows in rounded perspectives, and the floral decoration that sets the seal on the upper surface is the maker’s mark.

Add to the astonishing list of landscapes equal to their painters—Dali’s Port Lligat, the cylindrical mountains of Chinese scroll painters, Van Gogh’s Arles—Thiebaud’s Davis. This field in a niche alongside the freeway, that river in and out, patchwork as the thing seen and not comprehensive in memory or (bless us) imagination. Likewise the cityscapes, which Childe Hassam or Edward Hopper might have, combined in sharp perspectives, figured as the likely outcome of the long patience of drawing and etching this or that street at length, a vertical outcome, a sheer precipice walked.

Wayne Thiebaud
Rosebud Cakes
oil on canvas
15⅞ x 20 inches
1991-95

 

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