January 19, 2022
3 minute read

Twinka Thiebaud and the Art of the Pose

Jack Welpott (American, 1923–2007), Twinka, 1970. Gelatin silver print, 12 1/2 x 8 3/4 in. Collection of Twinka Thiebaud.

The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce Twinka Thiebaud and the Art of the Pose, the first exhibition to highlight Twinka Thiebaud’s (born 1945) long career and influence as an artist’s model, while also exploring the professional relationships and friendships she developed with artists. Featuring more than 100 works by 33 artists, the exhibition is on view from June 19 through September 11, 2022.

The exhibition is comprised of paintings, drawings, and photographs that date from the 1940s through 2022. Much of Thiebaud’s earliest modeling work, completed as a child for her father, renowned Sacramento-based artist Wayne Thiebaud (1920–2021), will be on view together for the first time, including sketches and portraits from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as paintings from the 1960s.

In the decades that followed, Thiebaud continued to actively work as an artist’s model rather than moving toward commercial work. She established partnerships with photographers including Judy Dater, Jack Welpott, Eikoh Hosoe, Arnold Newman, Ralph Gibson, Mary Ellen Mark, Kim Campbell, Tami Bahat, Elizabeth Opalenik, Aline Smithson, and John Reiff Williams, among others. In addition to the numerous photographs on view in the exhibition, drawings by California-based artists such as Don Bachardy and Fred Dalkey help provide a comprehensive look at Thiebaud’s career.

“As I look back through my many decades of work, I find connections to my family, childhood, and various stages of my life that form my story and at the same time are part of the larger art world,” says Thiebaud. “Every image evokes the circumstances of my life and my emotional state at that particular time.”

Apparent throughout the exhibition is Thiebaud’s capacity to transform her body and gaze based upon the surrounding environment and the artist’s vision for the work. In doing so, she transcends the typical role of a model. Associate Curator Jayme Yahr, Ph.D. explains, “While an artist may capture the body in a photograph, painting, or drawing, Thiebaud’s ability to communicate a feeling through her pose, such as fear, sorrow, surprise, or contentment, gives her larger agency in the creative process.”

In addition to Thiebaud’s career as an artist’s model, the exhibition also reveals the recurring themes of nature and the environment, the human body, and aging. Thiebaud often aligned, contorted, or expanded her physical presence within a natural environment to communicate the connection between body and earth.

Arranged chronologically, the exhibition provides the opportunity to follow the development of Thiebaud’s professional career and celebrate the aging process. “I have been asked if it hurts to see pictures of me as a young woman next to those that I posed for in my seventies,” Thiebaud shares. “My answer is a resounding ‘No!’ I do not cling to the pictures of a younger me like a security blanket. I think of them like shells I have outgrown or snakeskins I have shed along my path. The more recent images of me are not always ‘pretty,’ and that is okay. They are honest, and more than that, human.”

Twinka Thiebaud and the Art of the Pose’s key themes, particularly the working relationship between photographer and model, will be explored on Saturday, August 6 in the panel discussion Model as Muse at the Crocker Art Museum, featuring Associate Curator Jayme Yahr in conversation with photographers Judy Dater and Tami Bahat. The group will discuss photography’s development over time, the nuances of photographers working with artist’s models, and highlights of Bahat’s and Dater’s careers, including their featured works.

The corresponding catalogue, Twinka Thiebaud and the Art of the Pose, is available for purchase in the Museum Store. Twinka Thiebaud and the Art of the Pose will be on view at the Crocker during the run of Wayne Thiebaud: A Celebration, 19202021, an exhibition highlighting the work and career of Twinka Thiebaud’s father. This is the encore presentation of the Crocker’s Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, which has been on national tour throughout 2021–2022.