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Art Newspaper: A friendly scene—the landscapes of Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn

By James H. Miller

Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud, around 1991 © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

“We had wonderful conversations,” recalls the painter Wayne Thiebaud, aged 97, of his friend and fellow artist Richard Diebenkorn. Proof of that can be seen in a photograph of the two men laughing together, taken in 1991, two years before Diebenkorn’s death at age 71. “I miss him a great deal,” Thiebaud says, more than once. The image is reproduced on the wall of New York’s Acquavella Galleries at the start of California Landscapes: Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn (until 16 March), a show that not only draws on their artistic affinities, but reveals the deep, if somewhat lesser known, friendship between the painters.

When the two met in 1964, Diebenkorn was a prominent painter linked to San Francisco’s Bay Area Figurative group, which also included artists like David Park, who together had ruffled the New York critical establishment by embracing representational painting. As Diebenkorn declared at the time, abstraction had been “reduced to a book of rules”. But he returned to it eventually, and with a renewed vigour and sensitivity, for his career-defining Ocean Park series (1967-88), a cycle of flat geometric canvases that distilled the light and colour of Santa Monica, examples of which are on display at Acquavella.

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