The Visionary Eye of Allan Stone

Allan Stone; Allan Stone Gallery, New York, c. 1975. Images courtesy of the Allan Stone Collection

Founded in 1960 by art dealer Allan Stone (1932–2006), the New York gallery known today as Allan Stone Projects has been admired for over half a century. Celebrated for its eclectic approach and early advocacy of pivotal artists of the 20th century, Allan Stone Gallery was a leading authority on Abstract Expressionism, the New York dealer for Wayne Thiebaud for over forty years, and showed the works of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Joseph Cornell, John Graham and John Chamberlain. Stone also promoted the work of a younger generation of artists that were in conversation with other artists in his collection, working in the mediums of assemblage, collage and new modes of abstraction. In addition to modern masterworks and contemporary art, Allan Stone also collected and exhibited international folk art, Americana and important decorative arts and industrial design.

Pies and cakes and hot dogs... Allan Stone was very puzzled by them, and it took him a year or two to get to a point of saying, “I got the courage to show these damn things." And that’s quite a mark of his ability and loyalty, to take me on and see what he could do. We didn’t have very many hopes. He said to me, “I think you’re a good painter. I don’t know about these, but we’ll show them and we’ll show them.”  And that’s what we did.

Wayne Thiebaud

Wayne Thiebaud and Allan Stone

A Shared Dedication to Seeing

Allan Stone, of the highly regarded, eponymous gallery, was the first person to show Wayne Thiebaud's work in New York in 1962. The two would become life-long friends and business partners, with Allan Stone being the sole representative of Thiebaud's work in New York until Stone's death in 2006. The same year as Thiebaud's New York debut, curator Walter Hopps had put together the groundbreaking exhibition New Painting of Common Objects at the Pasadena Art Museum, which is considered the first survey of Pop Art and included works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and Thiebaud. For a short time in the mid-1950s, Thiebaud lived in New York, but found the atmosphere alienating and did not connect with the brooding anxiety that drove the Abstract Expressionist movement. He returned to California to teach and began painting his colorful, deadpan still lifes of pastries, candy, shoes and everyday objects he would become best known for.

Allan Stone installing Thiebaud's work in 1962.
Image courtesy of the Allan Stone Collection
Thiebaud at Allan Stone Gallery, 1962. 
Image courtesy of the Allan Stone Collection

While Thiebaud is often associated with Pop Art, his approach has a distinctly West Coast spirit, at times nostalgic and optimistic, and a concern with the formal properties of light and color that align him with Modernist painters such as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice de Vlaminck and Giorgio Morandi. This is especially prevalent in his landscape paintings, which he began creating in the 1950s and revisited again, in various ways, throughout his career; these blithe and vibrant depictions of his native California serve as an important compendium to his iconic still lifes. Just as with painting a bakery case or a shoe display, Thiebaud was "not just interested in the pictorial aspects...but in some way to manage it, manipulate it, or see what [he] can turn it into." Allan Stone was an important figure throughout Thiebaud's career, passionately representing his work in its diversity, richness and persistence.

I have had the pleasure of friendship with a complex and talented man, a terrific teacher and cook, the best raconteur in the west with a spin serve, and a great painter whose magical touch is exceeded only by his genuine modesty and humility. Thiebaud's dedication to painting and his pursuit of excellence inspire all who are lucky enough to come in contact with him. He is a very special man.

Allan Stone

Wayne Thiebaud b. 1920

Wayne Theibaud is an American painter and printmaker, often associated with Pop Art of the 1960s, but his life-long attention to form and light places him more in line with Modern painters such as Pierre Bonnard, Claude Monet and Giorgio Morandi, albeit with a concern for the contemporary, everyday American landscape. Thiebaud is famous for his nostalgic and deadpan depictions of pastries, sandwiches, shoes and candy, but he also painted northern California landscapes, the San Francisco cityscape and portraits with a similar concern for the play of light, interrelation of forms and rich, vibrant colors.

Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1920 and grew up in Long Beach, California. From an early age he was influenced by cartoon animation, citing Krazy Kat as an inspiration, and he studied commercial art in high school. He spent a summer as an apprentice at Walt Disney Studios and went on to work as a sign painter, cartoonist and illustrator from 1939 to 1949. Thiebaud began his formal arts education in 1949 and graduated with a master’s degree in art history from Sacramento State College in 1953. After school, he moved to New York for a short time but did not feel connected to the anxiety and intellectualism that Abstract Expressionism was rooted in, though he did find kinship with the gestural, impasto work of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. He returned to California and began teaching painting at University of California, Davis in 1960, where he most enjoyed teaching novices, “raw beginners,” and stressing the importance of hard work, repetition, close-seeing and practicing the formal aspects of painting and drawing.

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