American painter, printmaker and draughtsman Wayne Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1920. He worked briefly at the Walt Disney Studios in Los Angeles from 1936 to 1937 while attending Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Thiebaud studied commercial art at the Frank Wiggins Trade School in Los Angeles in 1938 and then worked as a cartoonist in Long Beach. Following WWII, he attended San Jose State College (1949-1950) and California State College in Sacramento (1950-1953). From 1951 to 1960 he worked as an art instructor at Sacramento Junior College, experimenting with various painting styles.
On a leave of absence, in 1956, Thiebaud went to New York where he met and became friends with Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. He was greatly influenced by these abstractionists as well as Pop artists, such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. He had his first one-man shows in 1960 at the San Francisco Museum of Art and the Tanager and Staempfi Galleries in New York. Although these shows received little notice, Thiebaud gained national recognition two years later at an exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, which officially launched Pop Art.
Thiebaud is one of the most well known Pop artists in America. His iconic images of food may have been influenced by his beginnings as a free-lance cartoonist.
Thiebaud was elected to the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters in 1985 and in 2001, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor held an 80th birthday commemorative exhibition titled, “Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective”.