Thursday, August 25, 2011

Red Velvet Cup Cake, an homage to Thiebaud

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 2011
12 x 12'', painting # 197

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the dessert industry with the Red Velvet Cake (click here). The redness is attributed when the red anthocyanin of cocoa is revealed during a reaction between acidic vinegar and buttermilk, although most recipes also include red food coloring. The Red Velvet cup cake in this painting is from the Cake Box here in Moncton. It is their best seller. In fact, if you want one, you have to go early during the day cause by mid afternoon there all gone. I had never heard of Red Velvet cake until last year. I ate some for the first time this past Easter, when we had lunch at the cafeteria of the Art Institute of Chicago.

This painting is a companion piece to ''Black Forest Cup Cake, an homage to Thiebaud'' that will be exhibited in The Still Life, an invitational group show at the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, California during the month of October. In this rendering, we have a better view of the book ''Delicious, The Life & Art of Wayne Thiebaud'', by Susan Goldman Rubin (published by Chronicle books -2007).

Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes, 1963
oil on canvas, 152.4 x 182.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Continuing Wayne Thiebaud's biography from my previous post -
As a teenager, he worked in the animation dept. of Walt Disney Studios. Early in his career he was employed a cartoonist and advertisement designer. During WW2, he enlisted and served as a war artist (1942-45). During the early 1950's, he earned a bachelor and masters degree in art and would go on to teach art until he retired at age 70 from a full-time position at the University of California, Davis. He would continue to teach studio art and art history on a part-time basis afterwards. One of his most celebrated student is Mel Ramos.

Thiebaud's first solo exhibition was at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento. Between the years 1954 and 1957, he produced eleven educational films for which was awarded the Scholastic Art Prize in 1961. The greatest break of his career came in the spring of 1962. He had travelled to New York City in search of finding a commercial art gallery to represent him. After many rejections, the Allan Stone Gallery took him in and organized a solo exhibition entitled ''Wayne Thiebaud, Recent paintings''. To everyone's surprise, even himself, the show sold out. A piece was even purchased by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). This exhibition was followed by his first solo museum show in San Francisco at the de Young Museum. Later that year he was included in the landmark group exhibition, New Realists, at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.

He has remained active throughout his life and his work has received some of the highest honors, including major retrospectives. As gallery owner Allan Stone once said, ''His work is about celebrating the Joy of Living''.

Please visit this 2001 CBS documentary segment for a quick life retrospective.



  1. Great work as always Alvin! I love the fact that there is more to this piece than just a straightforward rendering of the subject. I have tried in the past to photograph a glass cloche with a cake inside it but got awful amounts of bright reflections that hid the cake inside it but you seem to have managed it! well done!

  2. Alvin, stunning as usual!!! I am so enjoying your homage to Thiebaud. I think you could paint this subject forever and I would never tire of it. Just amazing!

  3. There is something magical and profundly dramatic in this beautiful painting. The highly detailed composition works pretty well and the unusual use of deep vibrant colors for that kind of subject gives a mysterious aura to the piece.
    Great work.

  4. Nick, Carrie & Pierre, thank you so much for your comments, your words touch me profoundly.

  5. This is really wonderful!

  6. amazing arwork, so detailed! :)