For those familiar with his work, the painter Wayne Thiebaud conjures almost Pavlovian associations with dessert. That’s because Thiebaud, who is 94, has devoted more than half his life to portraying glossily glazed doughnuts, rainbow-colored lollipops and creamy dollops with such discipline and affection that they come to look more precious than gemstones.
Thiebaud took years—in some cases decades—to complete many of the paintings in his latest show, at New York’s Acquavella Galleries from October 1 through November 21. “He is not a fast painter,” says gallery director Eleanor Acquavella, in an understatement. Thiebaud has never allowed her inside his Sacramento, California, studio and “never shows a work in progress. He waits as long as it takes until he knows it’s finished.”
Like Cézanne’s oranges or Morandi’s vases, Thiebaud’s desserts pulse with a life of their own. In one of the show’s larger canvases, a childlike vulnerability haunts the rows of cakes lining a cold case, each adorned with a ruffle of cream or a raspberry coronet, like girls dolled up for church. In another, two plump éclairs sit stiffly side by side as if siblings posed for a family portrait.