We just learned of the passing last week of artist Robert Bechtle. If you’ve visited enough art museums and galleries around the world, but especially in America, you’ve very likely encountered one of Bechtle’s hyper photo-realistic paintings.
The subject matter of his paintings were often mundane scenes of American suburbia notable for almost always including a car in the image and often depicting the artist himself. Sometimes his family appeared in his artwork, as in the artwork pictured above titled “’61 Pontiac.”
His paintings from the late 1960s and early ’70s have the feel of old printed photos, the type anybody might have taken with simple point-and-click camera. But what is most striking about Bechtle’s paintings is the photo-realism. At first glance, these appear to viewers as actual photos blown up to big museum-gallery scale. (In this way his images remind us of some of the artwork of German painter Gerard Richter’s painting of old photography.) The achingly mundane “Alameda Gran Torino,” pictured below looks like a photo anybody might take of their car as seen parked in a driveway.
Bechtle’s paintings had an auto-biographical quality. He painted what was immediately around him — his cars, family and homes — in the ordinary suburbia of the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived and worked.
Robert Bechtle, rest in peace.