Renowned Artist and Professor Emeritus Receives UC Davis Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation

Quick Summary

  • Wayne Thiebaud is inaugural recipient
  • Award recognizes innovation, impact and inspiration

Artist and professor emeritus Wayne Thiebaud will be honored as the inaugural recipient of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation at a ceremony on Tuesday, June 28. The award recognizes an acknowledged innovator whose career accomplishments have led to a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who is an inspiring influence for other innovators. The recognition and award will be presented by Acting Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter as part of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Innovation Awards event.

“Wayne Thiebaud is a true innovator,” Hexter said. “He constantly pushes himself as a painter, experimenting with brushstrokes, color, composition and different sources of light. His lifetime of exploration has inspired us to see the world in different ways.”

‘Pioneering work’

Thiebaud, a painter and printmaker whose pioneering work defined an era, is best known for his renderings of the everyday, including food displays, pinball machines, lipsticks, and California landscapes and cityscapes, using a singular illustrative style. His contributions to creative expression, popular culture and artistic form through his groundbreaking approaches to art, color and content have made him one of the most important painters of our time.

His artworks are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many other prominent institutions.

Part of ‘UC Davis legacy’

Thiebaud earned both bachelor’s and master’s degree from what is now California State University, Sacramento. He joined the art department at UC Davis as an assistant professor in 1960, where he continued his career until retiring in 1991. 

After retirement, Thiebaud continued to teach classes at UC Davis and has been an active volunteer adviser to the university. He and his family have made generous gifts to the campus to support art teaching, including donations of many of his own works. He is widely regarded as an inspirational figure by students, aspiring artists and those who admire his considerable body of creative work.

“Wayne is such an important part of the UC Davis legacy — that first generation of art faculty who revolutionized the way art was taught, thought about and practiced for themselves and throughout the world,” said Rachel Teagle, founding director of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, where several of Thiebaud’s works will be on display when the museum opens in November. “People don’t realize how truly radical some of Wayne’s work was when he first came to UC Davis. He brought innovation to his teaching in ways that will no doubt continue to inspire and teach many future generations of students."

Thiebaud is the recipient of many prestigious honors including the President’s National Medal of Arts, the National Arts Club’s Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, and the American Academy of Design’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Art.

At 95, he continues to make art.

The UC Davis Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation is one of several awards to be announced at an event on June 28 to celebrate the impact that innovation at the university has on society.

For more on Thiebaud’s work and influence as an educator at UC Davis, read The Art of Wayne’s World.

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