Professor Emeritus Robert Bechtle, Photorealist Painter of Suburbia, Dies

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- Robert Alan Bechtle was born on May 14, 1932, in San Francisco to Otto Bechtle, an electrician, and Thelma (Peterson) Bechtle, a schoolteacher. He was interested in drawing from a very early age, and by the time he graduated from Alameda High School, near Oakland, he knew he wanted to be an artist.

Mr. Bechtle earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland. After a stint in the Army that took him to Europe, where he found inspiration visiting museums, he returned to the school to complete his master’s. He later taught at San Francisco State University for 30 years.

Painters like Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn, who were part of the Bay Area figurative school of the 1950s, were an early inspiration to Mr. Bechtle — largely to his detriment, he said. In his effort to cast off the anxiety of influence and find his own painterly signature, he turned to realism and to a flat neutrality of tone and viewpoint that pervaded everything he did thereafter.