The American Painter Wayne Thiebaud, Who Transformed Cakes Into Symbols of Joy and Longing, Has Died at 101

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Wayne Thiebaud, whose luminous paintings of cakes, gumball machines, and other symbols of mid-century Americana made him one of the country’s most recognizable and beloved artists, died on Saturday, December 25. He was 101.

His death was confirmed by his longtime gallery, Acquavella in New York.  

Thiebaud worked as a graphic designer and cartoonist before he set out to pursue a career as a painter in the mid-1950s. He rose to prominence as Pop art entered the mainstream, but his approach to the iconography of American life was distinct from that of peers such as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist: less critique and satire, more nostalgia, joy, and longing. 

Thiebaud drew as much from Abstract Expressionism as Pop art, applying paint thickly with a palette knife in the same way a baker frosts a cake. His art also invited comparisons to Edward Hopper, who infused…

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