Artnet Auctions Presents: Why This Print by Wayne Thiebaud is the Picture-Perfect Example of the Artist’s Unique Process

Learn why this print by Wayne Thiebaud from our Premier Prints & Multiples sale is a great investment right now.

Wayne Thiebaud, Sardines, 1982–1990. Watercolor over etching on wove paper. Estimated at $70,000—100,000 in Premier Prints & Multiples on Artnet Auctions.

With his iconic images of everyday items, from pastel-iced cakes, candies, shoes, to even sardines, California artist Wayne Thiebaud has been a uniquely defining force in American art since the early 1960s. One of the great post-World War II American artists, Thiebaud has earned himself a significant place in art history books and private and public collections throughout the world.

Sardines (1982–1990), offered in our Premier Prints & Multiples sale on Artnet Auctions, stands among the artist’s most compelling examples of his exploration of this particular subject and is a wonderful example of his hand-colored prints—a body of work that has long fascinated the artist. Initially conceived as a simple black and white etching, Thiebaud hand-painted the work extensively in watercolor, giving delicate attention to every aspect of the work on paper. The etched lines beneath provide structure, form, and texture to the work while the watercolor, which pools at the edges of the sardine can and neon-electric piping, works to transform the otherwise common study into a beautifully personal and detailed still-life.

Thiebaud’s colorful palette and graphic endeavors largely derive from his California roots and his life experiences. His storied past as a cafe worker, a cartoonist at Walt Disney Studios, and even his role as an artist in the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army Air Forces during WWII, not only informs his work but manifests as the everyday images of Americana he nostalgically depicts and makes his own.

Wayne Thiebaud’s Works at Auction

In July 2020, Thiebaud’s previous auction record of $8.4 million more than doubled when his painting Four Pinball Machines (1962) achieved over $19 million at auction. While Thiebaud has been collected widely for many decades, his top six results at auction have all come within the last seven years. His steady market rise and maturation coincides with his relatively recent representation by the major New York gallery Acquavella, who first staged a large exhibition of his work in 2012. With the development of a considerably larger and more international base of collectors, Thiebaud’s global auction sales volume has grown strongly upward, with total sales volume for 2020 already poised to surpass 2019.

Estimated at $70,000–100,000, Sardines presents a chance to acquire a beautiful and unique work by Thiebaud at a reasonable price. With images that recall the post-war generation, many collectors of his work find the familiarity and nostalgia of his subjects comforting and naturally appealing. The artist’s fondness for Sardines is not only evident in the care and excitement he shows for the intimate subject, but also in his decision to include this work in the important 1991 exhibition “Vision and Revision: Hand-Colored Prints by Wayne Thiebaud,” which toured across the United States. Prior to the exhibition, the work remained in the artist’s personal collection. It was not until it was released for public view in 1990 that the artist signed, dated, and marked the work with his iconic red heart. This work is also the only known hand-colored print from the exhibition and catalogue to ever come to auction.

The work of Wayne Thiebaud is more important to collect now than ever—not only because of the artist’s consistent and upward-trending market but because Thiebaud has found a revolutionary way to encompass the great American experience in a manner that is appealing to a broad base of collectors. This is surely a collecting opportunity you will not want to miss—click here to place your bids on this outstanding print from our Premier Prints & Multiples sale, live now through October 8.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to the specialist for this lot, Conner Williams. 

Head of Prints & Multiples

[email protected]

(212) 497-9700 ext. 705


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