Robert Bechtle

Robert Bechtle was born in 1932 in San Francisco and raised in Alameda. He studied graphic design and painting at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, earning his BFA in 1954 and MFA in 1958. He began painting seriously in the early 1960s, finding his own voice through a tightly controlled realism that was distinct from the expressionistic paint-handling characteristic of Bay Area Figurative art — then the dominant mode of expression among his local peers and predecessors. Bechtle works from photographs of familiar subjects (his family and home, for example) to depict precise moments in time. Photographs provide Bechtle with the beginning structure for the painting, which allows him to make artistic changes in the content and composition of the work as he paints. Despite their photographic origins, however, his canvases are resolutely about painting. Underneath the smooth sheen of their surfaces lies a textured web of strokes and dabs, where abstract shapes meet edges to form an intricate, layered view of our environment. For more than forty years Bechtle has pursued a quiet realism based on the things he knows best — family, cars, houses, neighborhoods — translating what seem to be ordinary scenes of middle-class American life into extraordinary paintings.

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