Skip to main content
Item #31161 Nickel Machine. Wayne THIEBAUD.

THIEBAUD, Wayne (1920-2021)

Nickel Machine

Berkeley, California: Crown Point Press, 1964. Etching in black on Rives BFK wove paper. (8 x 4 5/6 inches). Etching number 9 from an edition of 15. Signed and dated by Thiebaud in pencil with a small drawing of a heart in red color pencil, on Rives BFK wove paper with watermark. Sheet size: (14 1/2 x 11 inches). Plate mark: (7 3/4 x 4 3/5 inches).

An early signed etching of one of Thiebaud's central Pop Art motifs: a pinball machine.

"Making a print is an orchestration between what you think you know and what you're surprised to learn." - Wayne Thiebaud Embelmatic of 1950s and 60s American youth culture, pinball machines were a recurring motif for Thiebaud, whose real subject was America itself. Examples of Thiebaud's use of pinball machines can be seen as early as his mixed media paintings on Masonite from 1956, to 1962's Four Pinball Machines, to a more common, colored derivative of this same image revisited in 1991. Thiebaud's pinball machines, gumball machines, and his diner-counter cakes and pies are all redolent of a time after WWII when broad affluence allowed large swathes of the American public to engage mass consumerism. But there is a treacly sweetness to the tertiary key-limes and pinks of Thiebaud's desserts that suggests an ambivalent irony underlying Thiebaud's subject matter. A darker view of popular culture is clear in Nickel Machine, where a lone pinball machine appears colorless, stripped of its lights, noise, and action, portrayed instead as a hard object haunting a corner of some liminal space deep in the American imagination. It was printed the same year, 1964, as his portfolio Delights by Berkeley's Crown Point Press, a press Thiebaud worked with until the very end of his career. Nickel Machine is an inlet into the high period of American Pop Art, and a strong example of Thiebaud's early work with relationships to important paintings in his oeuvre. Thiebaud (1920-2021) was born in Mesa, Arizona, into a Mormon family. He apprenticed at Walt Disney Studios before working in the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1945. He then attended San José State University on the GI Bill before transferring to California State University, Sacramento, where he took his bachelor's and master's degrees. Thiebaud was hired as an assistant professor at UC Davis in 1960, taught until 1991, and remained professor emeritus thereafter. Prior to teaching, Thiebaud spent the 1950s working in ad agencies on the coasts. His familiarity with commercial imagery became foundational to his later work. Thiebaud's paintings articulated a Pop Realism that departed from the appropriative visual techniques of Warhol and Lichtenstein, and could be equally positioned in the mode of earlier representational American painters like Benton, Wood, and Hopper. His glossy, nearly impasto-thick paintings were able to evoke the pleasure of the sumptuous painting surfaces of the Abstract Expressionists at a time when Pop and Abstract Expressionism seemed diametrically opposed. An iconic American painter of American consumer icons.

Item #31161

Price: $12,000.00

See all items by Wayne THIEBAUD