Wayne Thiebaud, CAKES (1963)

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Wayne Thiebaud, CAKES  (1963)



Author : Wayne Thiebaud

Piece of Art: CAKES, National Art Gallery Washington

Year: 1963

Technique: oil on canvas 152×183 cm

Theme: descriptive figuration

Wayne Thiebaud_Cakes_1963


  • Objects in this piece of art are almost properly shaped geometric figures/pictures; mostly shaped as tubes (cakes), blunt coupes whit geometric shapes like triangles, spirals, circles.
  • Light comes from the left but seems to be unnatural. The whole painting is full of it. Every figure is evenly lightened and their shadows seem to be unreal. There are certain moments of idealization. He light is unreal, present everywhere. The play of colors cast shadows (Albers’ theory of colors)
  • The picture shows various popular cakes on trays from various patisseries. Once there were handcolored advertisements that vendors kept in their shop windows. This could be one of these advertisements.
  • The painting represents still life.
  • The objects shown in the pictures belong to a common consumerism’s society and patisseries products.
  • The facet of colors is reduced. White dominates in various shades, except for 3 objects (out of 13 cakes)
  • The texture is real, brush-strokes can be clearly seen
  • The perspective is hard to define, it is wrong. All figures are divided into a grid, occupying the same amount of space. Depth is minimum present. Objects are leaning towards the observers so the top of the figures is visible, which is a circle; most resembling vertical perspective.
  • Figures are evenly divided, repetitive, almost identical.
  • Lacking threedimensionality, all objects are very flat.
  • No visible contours – they are created by the relations between colours.
  • No background – it is white, without any details.
  • No context, no story, it’s cakes for cakes


Thiebaud is considered to be the forerunner of pop art style, the first to paint objects of mass culture, although he does not feel a pop art artist.

Because many of his paintings represent sweets and pastries, Thieband is often called the painter of desserts. Taking in account the motifs of his paintings he definitely is a pop art artist. However, he distinguishes himself from pop art because of his traditional approach to painting (he doe not even call himself a painter but an illustrator). His canvas does not look like newspaper print, his paintings are not liveless. Brush-strokes are very clearly visible and he does not try to hide them. One can say that his paintings have a sense of melancholy. This cannot be found in real pop art. Thiebaud just wants to show the melancholy of his youth days and jollyness. In one of his interview he said that the food (pastries) we eat represent us.

In short Thieband is not to be called a pop art artist but on the other hand he is indispensible in analysing pop art, simply because his pieces of art can  by structure and topic serve as forerunner for the future pop artists to come, like e.g. Andy Warhole.

Wayne Thiebaud_Cakes_1963_detalji

Bonus: Cakes from painting is real, their names are:

  • Boston cream pie
  • Chocolate layer
  • Coconaut layer
  • Angel food
  • Strawberry birthday


Wayne Thiebaud,  (born Nov. 15, 1920, Mesa, Ariz., U.S.)Thiebaud grew up in a Mormon home in California. He studied commercial art at Long Beach Polytechnic High School and at the Frank Wiggins Trade School (1938; now Los Angeles Trade-Technical College) in Los Angeles and worked as a summer apprentice in the animation department at Walt Disney Studios. From 1939 to 1949 Thiebaud worked as a cartoonist, sign painter, and illustrator. He attended San Jose State College (1949–50) and California State College at Sacramento (B.A., 1951; M.A., 1953). By the late 1940s he had given up commercial work.

Thiebaud taught art from 1951 to 1960 at Sacramento Junior College (now Sacramento City College) and from 1960 to 1976 at the University of California, Davis. He was active in theatre design work (beginning with The Heiress in 1950) and created public murals and sculptures, and in 1954 he established a company to produce educational art films. In 1967 he represented the United States at the São Paulo Biennial in Brazil, and in 1985 the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art organized a major retrospective of his work. In 1994 Thiebaud received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to an artist by the U.S. government. ( http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1481461/Wayne-Thiebaud )

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