Robert Bechtle

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Robert Bechtle
Born (1932-05-14) May 14, 1932 (age 86)
Nationality American
Education California College of Arts and Crafts
Known for Painting

Robert Bechtle (born May 14, 1932) is an American painter who has lived nearly all his life in the San Francisco Bay Area and whose art is centered on scenes from everyday local life.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Painting Practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

San Francisco Bay Area Conurbation in California, United States

San Francisco Bay Area is a populous region surrounding the San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun Bay estuaries in the northern part of the U.S. state of California. Although the exact boundaries of the region vary depending on the source, the Bay Area is defined by the Association of Bay Area Governments to include the nine counties that border the aforementioned estuaries: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and San Francisco. Other sources may exclude parts of or even entire counties, or expand the definition to include neighboring counties that don't border the bay such as San Benito, San Joaquin, and Santa Cruz.



Bechtle started drawing at a young age and, with encouragement from his teachers and his family, pursued a future as an artist. By submitting a portfolio of artwork to a national competition, Bechtle won a scholarship that paid for his first year of college. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts (1954) and Master of Fine Arts (1958) from the California College of Arts and Crafts, now the California College of the Arts, in Oakland, California.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts is the standard undergraduate degree for students in the United States and Canada seeking a professional education in the visual or performing arts.

A Master of Fine Arts is a creative degree in fine arts, including visual arts, creative writing, graphic design, photography, filmmaking, dance, theatre, other performing arts and in some cases, theatre management or arts administration. It is a graduate degree that typically requires two to three years of postgraduate study after a bachelor's degree, though the term of study varies by country or university. The MFA is a terminal degree. Coursework is primarily of an applied or performing nature with the program often culminating in a major work or performance. The first university to admit a student to the degree of Master of Fine Arts was the University of Iowa in 1940.

Oakland, California City in California, United States

Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California, United States. A major West Coast port city, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third largest city overall in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth most populated city in California, and the 45th largest city in the United States. With a population of 432,897 as of 2019, it serves as a trade center for the San Francisco Bay Area; its Port of Oakland is the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay, the entirety of Northern California, and the fifth busiest in the United States of America. An act to incorporate the city was passed on May 4, 1852, and incorporation was later approved on March 25, 1854, which officially made Oakland a city. Oakland is a charter city.

When he graduated, he was drafted and sent to Berlin, where he painted murals in the Mess Hall and delighted in visiting European museums. Besides making paintings, watercolors, and drawings—he is an accomplished printmaker. Bechtle began in lithography but, after 1982 when Crown Point Press began publishing his prints, worked mainly in etching.

Conscription Compulsory enlistment into national or military service

Conscription, sometimes called the draft, is the compulsory enlistment of people in a national service, most often a military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names. The modern system of near-universal national conscription for young men dates to the French Revolution in the 1790s, where it became the basis of a very large and powerful military. Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–8 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

A mess or mess hall is an area where military personnel socialize, eat, and live. The term is also used to indicate the groups of military personnel who belong to separate messes, such as the Officers' mess, the CPOs' mess, the Enlisted mess. In some civilian societies this military usage has been extended to the eating arrangements of other disciplined services such as fire fighting and police forces.

From 1956 to 1966 he taught at the University of California, Berkeley and from 1967 to 1968 at the University of California, Davis. From 1968 he has taught at San Francisco State University and lives in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood. [1]

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

University of California, Davis public university located in Davis, California, United States

The University of California, Davis, is a public research university and land-grant university adjacent to Davis, California. It is part of the University of California (UC) system and has the third-largest enrollment in the UC System after UCLA and UC Berkeley. The institution was founded as a branch in 1909 and became its own separate entity in 1959. It has been labeled one of the "Public Ivies", a publicly funded university considered to provide a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

San Francisco State University university in San Francisco, California

San Francisco State University is a public university in San Francisco. As part of the 23-campus California State University system, the university offers 118 different bachelor's degrees, 94 master's degrees, 5 doctoral degrees, along with 26 teaching credentials among six academic colleges.

Bechtle is represented by the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York City, [2] and Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. [3] He has created prints with the Crown Point Press in San Francisco since 1982. [4]

Barbara Gladstone is an American art dealer and film producer. She is owner of Gladstone Gallery, a contemporary art gallery with locations at 515 W. 24th Street, 30 West 21st Street in New York City and at 12 Rue du Grand Cerf in Brussels, Belgium. Before moving to Chelsea in 1996, Gladstone Gallery was located in Soho and on 57th Street in New York City.

Crown Point Press is a long-established printmaking workshop, primarily creating and publishing etched, intaglio prints. Located in San Francisco since 1986, Crown Point Press was first established in 1962 in Richmond California by Kathan Brown. Crown Point Press works with artists by invitation-only and has published prints by over 100 artists including Anne Appleby, John Baldessari, Robert Bechtle, Chuck Close, John Cage, Elaine de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Alex Katz, Ed Ruscha, and Pat Stier.


Robert Bechtle, '61 Pontiac, 1968-69. Oil on canvas, 59 3/4 x 84 1/4 in. (151.8 x 214 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; (c) 1969 Robert Bechtle Robert Bechtle, '61 Pontiac, 1968-69.jpg
Robert Bechtle, ’61 Pontiac, 1968–69. Oil on canvas, 59 3/4 × 84 1/4 in. (151.8 × 214 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; © 1969 Robert Bechtle

Along with John Baeder, Richard Estes, Chuck Close, Richard McLean, and Ralph Goings, Bechtle is considered to be one of the earliest Photorealists. By the mid-1960s, he had started developing a style and subject matter that he has maintained over his career. Working from his own photographs, Bechtle creates paintings described as photographic. Taking inspiration from his local San Francisco surroundings, he painted friends and family and the neighborhoods and street scenes, paying special attention to automobiles. Bechtle's brushwork is barely detectable in his photo-like renditions. His paintings reveal his perspective on how things look to him, the color, and the light of a commonplace scene. Peter Schjeldahl wrote in The New Yorker that in 1969, when he first noticed a Bechtle painting, he was “rattled by the middle-class ordinariness of the scene.” As he looked more closely, he discovered “a feat of resourceful painterly artifice” that he gradually realized was “beautiful.” The article concludes: “Life is incredibly complicated, and the proof is that when you confront any simple, stopped part of it you are stupefied.”

John Baeder is an American painter closely associated with the Photorealist movement. He is best known for his detailed paintings of American roadside diners and eateries.

Richard Estes American painter, 1932

Richard Estes is an American artist, best known for his photorealist paintings. The paintings generally consist of reflective, clean, and inanimate city and geometric landscapes. He is regarded as one of the founders of the international photo-realist movement of the late 1960s, with such painters as John Baeder, Ralph Goings, Chuck Close, Audrey Flack, and Duane Hanson. Author Graham Thompson writes "One demonstration of the way photography became assimilated into the art world is the success of photorealist painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is also called super-realism or hyper-realism and painters like Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, Audrey Flack, and Chuck Close often worked from photographic stills to create paintings that appeared to be photographs."

Chuck Close American painter

Charles Thomas "Chuck" Close is an American painter, artist and photographer. He makes massive-scale photorealist portraits. Close often paints abstract portraits of himself and others, which hang in collections internationally. Close also creates photo portraits using a very large format camera. Even though a catastrophic spinal artery collapse in 1988 left him severely paralyzed, he has continued to paint.

Exhibits and collections

Robert Bechtle's work has been exhibited internationally. Museum collections that include his artwork are: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art [5] and the Oakland Museum of California in northern California; [6] the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, [7] and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. [8]

Retrospective exhibits

The Oakland Museum of California (OMA) held a retrospective exhibit in 2000 of Bechtle's paintings, "California Classic: Realist Paintings by Robert Bechtle". [9]

A major retrospective exhibit and the first full–scale survey of the artist's work, "Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective," was organized and exhibited by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in 2005, [10] and travelled to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. [10]

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  1. "Robert Bechtle". Berggruen Gallery. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  2. Barbara Gladstone Gallery: Robert Bechtle webpage
  3. Gallery Paule Anglim: Robert Bechtle webpage
  4. Video interview with Robert Bechtle, re: Crown Point Press prints.
  5. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art−SFMOMA Collections: Robert Bechtle works
  6. Oakland Museum of California−OMCA Collections: Robert Bechtle works
  7. Whitney Museum of American Art: Robert Bechtle: '61 Pontiac
  8. Smithsonian American Art Museum collection: works by Robert Bechtle.
  9. "California Classic: Realist Paintings by Robert Bechtle", 2000 exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California (OMA).
  10. 1 2 "Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective", 2005 exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).