California Hall of Fame names Wayne Thiebaud


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Since the state was founded in 1850, California has produced almost no major visual artists. I know this -- or at least I’m told this -- by perusing the website for the California Hall of Fame.

A celebrity venture started by the celebrity wife of California’s celebrity governor, the CH of F rolled out its celebrity red carpet in Sacramento Tuesday night to induct 14 new members. Many worthies were named. Among them was Wayne Thiebaud, 90, the estimable painter who lives in the state capital.


Thiebaud becomes the fifth artist on the Hall of Fame’s list, now honoring 65 ‘legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.’ The other artists are Ansel Adams, Robert Graham, Dorothea Lange and Fritz Scholder.

That’s it.

California’s first great artist, Carleton Watkins (1829-1926) hasn’t made the cut. Nor, at the other end of time’s arc, has John Baldessari, 79, whose retrospective now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts him in a rather rarefied pantheon.

Maybe these omissions -- and many others in the 160 years in between -- are a good thing. The ancient Roman statesman Cato the Elder said it best: ‘I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.’

--Christopher Knight


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