New Yorker Art Critic Giving Thiebaud Lecture


Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The New Yorker, will give the Betty Jean and Wayne Thiebaud Endowed Lecture at UC Davis March 10. The lecture, “The Critic as Artist: Updating Oscar Wilde,” is at 4:30 p.m and is free and open to the public.

The series is named for filmmaker and teacher Betty Jean Thiebaud, wife of Wayne Thiebaud, an internationally recognized artist who taught at UC Davis for 30 years. Betty Jean Thiebaud, who served as the model for many of her husband’s paintings, died in December.

"Betty Jean was passionate about the visual arts and the importance of discipline in the life of an artist,” said Gina Werfel, an art professor who spearheaded the endowed lecture series. “Wayne and Betty Jean believed strongly in the benefits of an active visiting artist program. Recently, Wayne has greatly enjoyed interacting with our short-term visitors and attending their lectures. Our hope is to expand upon our visiting program and revive the legacy of the visiting artist program."

The series was launched last year with $150,000 from the Office of the Chancellor.

Schjeldahl has been with The New Yorker for 18 years. He has also written frequently for the New York Times, Artforum and Art in America. His talk is based on Wilde’s essay of the same title proposing that criticism itself is an art form and he will discuss whether art criticism is still relevant today.

“Peter Schjeldahl comments on important exhibitions with wit and eloquence,” Werfel said. “Many of us look forward to his articles, which range from reinterpretations of familiar figures to appreciations of recently rediscovered painters.”

Wayne Thiebaud is best known for his lush renderings of the everyday — cakes, pies, cosmetics — and California city scenes and landscapes. His art is in the collections of most major museums around the country and he was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. He was one of the artist/professors, along with Robert Arneson and William Wiley, who gave the UC Davis art department a reputation for experimentation and excellence.

The talk takes place in the AGR Room, Buehler Alumni Center at Old Davis Road and Alumni Drive. (Directly across from the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.)

In conjunction with Schjeldahl’s visit, UC Davis master of fine arts students will open their studios to visitors March 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. The studios are located behind the Art Building between Hutchison Drive and Mrak Hall.

Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science