Not on view
Oil on canvas
Overall: 29 13/16 × 35 15/16in. (75.7 × 91.3 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund
Rights and reproductions
© Wayne Thiebaud / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Drawn to everyday objects and typically American foods as the subjects of his art, Wayne Thiebaud began painting still lifes such as Pie Counter in the early 1960s. He was particularly attracted to these subjects because of the rituals and cultural meanings that surrounded them. As he explained, “Pie has a long history and it has other implications: the idea of ‘Pie in the Sky,’ the old American preoccupation with Mom and Apple Pie, pie throwing contests, pie throwing in Chaplin films. One makes a pie out of ordinary stuff, like raisins, squash or apples and gift wraps it, in a sense with a crust. It’s very magical, very special.” In Pie Counter, as in other paintings, Thiebaud used vernacular foodstuffs to explore composition, color, light, and texture. Unlike most of his Pop art contemporaries who were eliminating the nuances of touch in their work, he exploited the physical properties of paint to mimic the look and feel of the substance depicted. Here, the paint imitates the gestural strokes a baker might make when frosting a cake or spreading whipped cream across a pie. By combining this physical treatment of paint with the rigid geometry of triangular pie slices and circular plates, arranged in a grid composition against the counter’s neutral background, Thiebaud made a work that is simultaneously representational and abstract.