A still life painting from 1961 by California postwar painter Wayne Thiebaud will highlight Dallas-based Heritage Auction’s modern and contemporary art sale to take place on June 18, carrying an estimate of $1.2 million–$1.8 million.
“This is a classic American still life of a classic American meal,” says Heritage Director of Modern & Contemporary Art, Holly Sherratt, of the 22-by-36-inch oil painting. She notes that, “for centuries, artists painted tabletop arrangements of fruits, flowers and vegetables. With an overflowing basket of fries, full bottle of orange soda, Thiebaud adopted a playful visual language more fitting for American tastes in the age of mass consumption.” Held in private hands since its early showcase at the Artists Cooperative Gallery in Sacramento—co-established by late collector and Tower Records founder, Russell Solomon—this sale marks the work’s market debut.
Painted in the year the artist met contemporary dealer Allan Stone, Orange Drink was featured in the seminal “New Painting of Common Objects” exhibition held the following year, in September 1962, at the Pasadena Art Museum. The exhibition included work by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and is known as the inaugural showcase of Pop art by an American institution. New York dealer Sidney Janis also featured Thiebaud in the formative 1962 survey of American Pop art in the International Exhibition of the New Realists.
Influenced by the neutral still lifes of modernist Giorgio Morandi, Thiebaud’s acclaim grew from his obsessive renderings of food in a graphic style. Unlike those of his Pop contemporaries, Thiebaud’s paintings stripped objects of branding and focused on form. Inspired by his days in the advertising department of Rexall Drugs, and producing movie posters for Universal Pictures, he drew from designers and commercial artists who were the original sources for mainstay Pop artists of the postwar era.
The highest-selling piece of Modern and Contemporary Art to come through the auction house to date is another major Thiebaud work from the same year as Orange Drink—Blueberry Custard—which brought in $3.2 million at Heritage Beverly Hills in November 2019, exceeding its $2.5 million high estimate. That same month, Thiebaud’s work reached another auction record of $8.4 million when Encased Cakes (2011) sold in a Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale; it bested an estimate of $6 million–$8 million.