Wayne Thiebaud Fields & Furrows
--; Oil on canvas;-- ; --

UnityDescribe the forms that contribute to the unity of this composition.

(look for elements and traits that repeatedly appear)

(look for alignments, structures or groupings that organize parts into larger entities (gestalt))

Dominating geometric shapes

  • The fields are rendered as geometric, straight-edged shapes with sharp corners.

thematic/subject unity -- a landscape of rural fields and river.

Color palette

  • (distribution of colors)
  • warm-cool balance/distribution

Left-Right balance along the river

  • The river provides a major (near-)vertical axis, dividing the composition.

    The left side is somewhat assymetrically balanced with the right side. The left-side has more sharp, directional, dynamic shapes thrusting rightward. The right side has larger fields with more active patterns, effectively balancing, and resisting, the rightward thrust of the left-side shapes.

Inward "direction" of the shapes of the fields

Prominent outlines/borders to field shapes

Spatially flattened picture plane.

  • Prominent shapes tend, generally to flatten pictoral space, rather than encouraging an illusion of deep, 3d space.

    Color and pattern within each shape tends to be consistent, rather than fading or gradating -- thus aireal perspective traits are diminished, effectively contributing to the sense of flattened, and thus unified space.

    The river, noted under "variety/perspective" comments, below, serves to confound any reading of deep space and thus flattens space.

Impact Concept — How does this image aim to grab the viewer's attention?

We can speculate on what the artist intended, though Thiebaud might well disagree. (see interview)

Thiebaud is considered a Pop artist. Pop art relies on familiar, everyday subjects — ordinary things that we see while going about our ordinary activities. The challenge is, in part, to open our eyes to what is all around us. Andy Warhol most often worked to show us the banality — the almost deadening repetition — of the patterns, packages and images around us. Thiebaud seems more genuinely fascinated with common things — ordinary objects, sometimes rural landscapes and sometimes cityscapes.

Here he shows us familiar rural farmland from a novel point of view, with recognizable forms altered and emphasized for sake of a play of pattern -- instead of pursuing a high degree of naturalism or realism, he reinvents and enlivens.
This landscape-riverscape is one of many Thiebaud paintings of similar subject and similar composition.

VarietyDescribe the forms that contribute to the variety and dynamism of this painting.

(look for contrast of any and every kind. Look especially for similar forms that are varied in some way. Look for anomalies — patterns or norms that are broken.)

Varied shapes, sizes of shapes; varied forcefulness of shape directionality.

Prominent, sharp, zig-zag contours of river establish a dynamic back and forth dynamism.

Somewhat upward tendency of field-shapes is opposed by prominent downward direction of river shape.

Normal perspective is opposed/contrasted with river's shape.

  • Normal linear perspective involves forms getting smaller as they get farther away. Thus, a normal perspective rendering of this landscape would involve field-shapes tending to get much smaller as they get higher in the picture plane.

    More prominently, normal perspective would render the river much smaller, or narrower at the top of the image than at the bottom, where we expect it to be wide. Here, however, Thiebaud expands the river shape at the top, and converges it at the bottom, utterly contrary to normal rendering of 3d space. This inversion of normal perspective creates a dynamic tension, as well as flattening the picture plane.

Rough textures of some edges; varied textures within fields.

Varied/contrasting colors -- arranged for mostly bold contrasts between neighboring shapes.

Varied/contrasting patterns in fields

Contrasting surface of (smooth, clean, undisturbed) river versus the patterned, colored fields.

Organic tree shapes juxtaposed with otherwise geometric shapes.

Focal AreasWhat areas are focal areas?
Describe the forms that contribute to their graphic emphasis?


Relief Areas

Wayne Thiebaud: Wikipedia | Artchive | Artcyclopedia | ArtNet | Gallery | *Video Interview* | NYTimes | Pintarest