The exhibition of the American realist painter Wayne Thiebaud (born in 1920 and now almost a century old), at the Manetti Shrem Museum on the campus of the University of California, Davis, focuses on his early work in the decade from 1958 to 1968. The handsome museum, generously endowed by two Napa Valley winemakers, Margrit Mondavi and Jan Shrem, opened in November 2016. The Grand Canopy outside, a structure of swooping aluminum and steel curves, allows light and shadows to filter throughout the grounds. The lobby inside has polished concrete floors and floor-to-ceiling windows.

In his illuminating “Artist’s Statement” in the exhibition catalogue, Thiebaud mentions his time spent as a cartoonist, illustrator, and advertising artist. He works variously from actual objects, from his commercial photographs, and from memory. More could have been written in the accompanying...


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