Born in 1932 in San Francisco, California, Robert Alan Bechtle was a part of the West Coast photo-realist movement. Bechtle’s artistic nature shined through at a young age when he began drawing. His future as an artist was encouraged by his family and teachers. The submittal of his artwork the National Endowment for the Arts earned Bechtle a grant that paid for his first year of college. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Art from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California, where he studied Graphic Design. Bechtle went on to study painting, and received a Master’s degree in Fine Art. Upon graduation, Robert Bechtle was drafted into the United States Army, and served from 1954 to 1956. He later went on to instruct at the college from 1957 to 1961, and served as an assistant professor in 1962. Robert Alan Bechtle married Nancy Elizabeth Dalton in 1962, with whom he had three children. Bechtle went on to lecture at the University of California at Berkeley from 1965 to 1966, was a visiting artist at the University of California at Davis from 1966 to 1968, and served as an associate professor at the San Francisco State University for thirty years, beginning 1968.
Richard Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliviera served as Robert Alan Bechtle’s original inspiration. However, Bechtle desired to avoid the current style in the 1960s, leading him to realism. He is considered one of the first photo realists, along with Richard Estes, Chuck Close, and Ralph Goings. Infact, Louis Meisel, the man who coined the phrase photo realism, considers Bechtle “the” founder of the photo realism movement. These artists depict outdoor landscapes in their paintings, emulating photographs. Robert Alan Bechtle was inspired by his local surroundings, painting neighborhoods, home exteriors, and streetscapes. With a special attention to automobiles, his paintings reveal his perspective on color, light, shadow, and surface. His work as a West Coast photo realist opposed the still lives and figures which were painted by those of the East Coast. Robert Alan Bechtle is also an accomplished printmaker, beginning in lithography, but working mainly in etching.
Robert Alan Bechtle’s paintings have been exhibited internationally. His paintings are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney and the Guggenheim Museums in New York. They are also in the Walker Art Center, the Smithsonian Institution and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.