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Robert Bechtle


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#1 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 05:49 PM

Looking at some of the art in this section, and recalling that Rand appreciated clarity in painting and called her art "Romantic Realism," I remember having posted two articles about the San Francisco painter Robert Bechtle:

Robert Bechtle's religious art

Robert Bechtle Part Two

At the time, I was not thinking in Objectivist terms, and was working from my own mixed-premises sense of life; but it has been interesting to revisit what I had written.

At this time, I would like to believe that Bechtle was celebrating the "benevolent universe" sense of life which permeated California at the time he painted these scenes. The ever-present automobile indicates, to me, Bechtle's respect for man's productivity, mobility, and freedom.

A man of mixed premises, Bechtle, I believe, used "banality" as a cover to get his art past the left-wing critics, and although currently out of vogue, he is generally considered historically one of California's better artists.

Another link for Bechtle (Wikipedia).

#2 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 05:52 PM

Another link for Bechtle (Wikipedia).


Here is an image of a Bechtle painting:

Posted Image

#3 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 07:33 PM


Another link for Bechtle (Wikipedia).


Here is an image of a Bechtle painting:

Posted Image


It ain't Norman Rockwell.

Ba'al Chatzaf



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#4 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 11:36 AM

It ain't Norman Rockwell.

Ba'al Chatzaf


Nope.

#5 Brant Gaede

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 11:45 AM

It sort of looks like an American Motors full-sized sedan, maybe The Ambassador. Regardless, only AM would have made a car that looks like that and it dates the picture to the mid-1960s.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede, 02 January 2011 - 11:45 AM.

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#6 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 12:43 PM

It sort of looks like an American Motors full-sized sedan, maybe The Ambassador. Regardless, only AM would have made a car that looks like that and it dates the picture to the mid-1960s.

--Brant


Good observation. American Motors, of course is defunct. The title of the painting, from the gallery, "'58 Rambler [1967] Artist: Robert Bechtle [American, b. 1932] Size: 30"x32" / oil on canvas"

1967 was the year Stalin's daughter defected to the USA. This link shows other events of that year just prior to the 1968 world-wide "anti-industrial revolution." Middle-class prosperity was banal. In 2011, unemployment is now banal.

#7 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 01:12 PM

Jon,

I like that image you posted, so I went to some of the links.

Although Bechtle is described as a "photo-realist," I see a flatness to the image that is not really typical of photographs. That flatness is what attracted me. It somehow seems to highlight the subject and make the background even more backgroundish (i.e., not very noticeable). And I like the effect.

I am a bit frustrated about how many links you have to click to start seeing some of his other paintings. You have to go all over the place. Maybe you have a good link? After all, if we're talking about a painter, it's good to see some paintings so we know what we are talking about. :)

Here's a link with some of his prints at Crown Point Press: Robert Bechtle. (There's a video of him talking there, too, but he's not a good talker, so I didn't post it here.)

Oh...

I forgot to read your pieces...

:)

(I'll do that and get back to you.)

Michael

Know thyself...


#8 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 01:26 PM

I forgot to read your pieces...

:)

(I'll do that and get back to you.)

Michael


Glad I piqued your interest, and I'm eager to hear your thoughts on my five-year-old blogposts.

The Crown Point works tend to focus on the Sunset area of San Francisco, which has sparse vegetation and conveys a more wistful, Hopperesque look.

Bechtle images are not easy to find on the Internet. The ones I describe in the blogpost have been painted from slides Bechtle took of East Bay bungalow neigborhoods, such as Albany and Oakland. In many of these the car in front of the house, is the focus of attention. In my opinion, the car in these paintings functions as an avatar for the heroic human figures hijacked by the Social Realists, Communists, and Nazis.

No hybrids, BTW, appear in Bechtle paintings, to the best of my knowledge.

Edited by Jonathan David Leavitt, 02 January 2011 - 01:36 PM.


#9 Selene

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 01:27 PM

Jon:

You used one of my favorite words banal.

Great post.

TED ALERT:

Usage Note: The pronunciation of banal is not settled among educated speakers of American English. Sixty years ago, H.W. Fowler recommended the pronunciation (bPosted ImagenPosted ImagePosted Imagel, rhyming with panel), but this pronunciation is now regarded as recondite by most Americans: no member of the Usage Panel prefers this pronunciation. In our 2001 survey, (bPosted ImagenPosted ImagelPosted Image) is preferred by 58 percent of the Usage Panel, (bPosted ImagePosted ImagenPosted Imagel) by 28 percent, and (bPosted Image-nälPosted Image) by 13 percent (this pronunciation is more common in British English). Some Panelists admit to being so vexed by the problem that they tend to avoid the word in conversation. Speakers can perhaps take comfort in knowing that these three pronunciations each have the support of at least some of the Usage Panel and that none of them is incorrect. When several pronunciations of a word are widely used, there is really no right or wrong one.

I pronounce it like anal with a "b".

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#10 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 01:41 PM

Jon:

You used one of my favorite words banal.

Great post.

TED ALERT:

Usage Note: The pronunciation of banal is not settled among educated speakers of American English. Sixty years ago, H.W. Fowler recommended the pronunciation (bPosted ImagenPosted ImagePosted Imagel, rhyming with panel), but this pronunciation is now regarded as recondite by most Americans: no member of the Usage Panel prefers this pronunciation. In our 2001 survey, (bPosted ImagenPosted ImagelPosted Image) is preferred by 58 percent of the Usage Panel, (bPosted ImagePosted ImagenPosted Imagel) by 28 percent, and (bPosted Image-nälPosted Image) by 13 percent (this pronunciation is more common in British English). Some Panelists admit to being so vexed by the problem that they tend to avoid the word in conversation. Speakers can perhaps take comfort in knowing that these three pronunciations each have the support of at least some of the Usage Panel and that none of them is incorrect. When several pronunciations of a word are widely used, there is really no right or wrong one.

I pronounce it like anal with a "b".

Adam


I use "bin-AL" to describe Bechtle's work, and "BANE-ul" to describe the comedy of that most sphincteresque of purported but unfunny comedians, Jon Stewart.

(Just kidding, actually, but the pronunciation variants are interesting.)

#11 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 02:17 PM

Jon,

I like that image you posted, so I went to some of the links.

Although Bechtle is described as a "photo-realist," I see a flatness to the image that is not really typical of photographs. That flatness is what attracted me. It somehow seems to highlight the subject and make the background even more backgroundish (i.e., not very noticeable). And I like the effect.

I am a bit frustrated about how many links you have to click to start seeing some of his other paintings. You have to go all over the place. Maybe you have a good link? After all, if we're talking about a painter, it's good to see some paintings so we know what we are talking about. :)

Here's a link with some of his prints at Crown Point Press: Robert Bechtle. (There's a video of him talking there, too, but he's not a good talker, so I didn't post it here.)

Michael


I merely googled Robert Bechtle, than clicked on the Images link on the left side of the page, and came up with this. I hope it works on the forum: lots of Bechtle images. Please notify me if it doesn't work.

Beware: some of the images are not of Bechtle's paintings or prints.

Edited by Jonathan David Leavitt, 02 January 2011 - 02:19 PM.


#12 Reidy

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 05:00 PM

I think you're trying too hard. The Bechtles I've seen present ordinary subject matter with a lot of contempt, and they are full of irrelevant, unimportant detail. When an artist focuses on the banal, the prima facie conclusion is that he prefers this and finds it characteristic of his subjects. If you think he does it for some other reason, the burden is on you to make a case, preferably with supporting statements from Bechtle himself.

His precise, well-lit style is an asset, but he uses it to decidedly unromantic ends. My understanding is that with an airbrush, this isn't even as hard to do as it might have been a century ago

As long as you're citing Rand, remember her remark that, in art, one omits the unimportant. Then ask yourself what Bechtle finds important.

#13 Jonathan David Leavitt

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 02:05 AM

His precise, well-lit style is an asset, but he uses it to decidedly unromantic ends..


True enough, realism it may be, but not Romantic Realism. The one time I heard him speak, it sounded as if he found the banality itself important. The interpretation in my blogpost was mine, not Bechtle's.

However, I find his work engaging, and I like it, because of his use of light, and because of his focus on the iconic treasures of the lower middle class, a bungalow and a big car.

Vermeer, praised by Rand, also considered banalities important, and painted for the middle class. I consider Vermeer a greater painter than Bechtle, but I still like Bechtle.

#14 Jonathan

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 01:38 PM

I think you're trying too hard. The Bechtles I've seen present ordinary subject matter with a lot of contempt...


Where do you find contempt in his work?


...and they are full of irrelevant, unimportant detail.


How have you determined that the detail is irrelevant and unimportant?


When an artist focuses on the banal, the prima facie conclusion is that he prefers this and finds it characteristic of his subjects.


No, that's not "the prima facie conclusion." It's merely your conclusion. Some artists choose "banal" subject matter because they don't want to be distracted by strong narrative elements. Their art isn't about illustrating a story, but about something else -- usually something purely visual, like proportion and composition, or the interplay between objects, lighting, textures and colors, etc.


His precise, well-lit style is an asset, but he uses it to decidedly unromantic ends.


I disagree. You don't know what his ends are. Your knowledge of visual art in general, and of Bechtle in particular, is insufficient for declaring what his ends "decidedly" are.


My understanding is that with an airbrush, this isn't even as hard to do as it might have been a century ago.


None of Bechtle's works look as if they're airbrushed, so I don't know what relevance airbrushing has to this discussion. Anyway, in my experience, good airbrushing is no easier than good bristle brushing.


As long as you're citing Rand, remember her remark that, in art, one omits the unimportant. Then ask yourself what Bechtle finds important.


Perhaps Bechtle finds story-telling unimportant or unessential to the visual arts. Perhaps he finds clichéd subject matter unimportant. Or perhaps he finds something else important that you're overlooking. You're viewing visual art here, you're not reading a book, so, instead of forcing Rand's theories of literature onto it, I would suggest that judging it for its visual qualities might make more sense than judging it based on what you've rather Randroidishly decided must be its literary qualities.

J

#15 Jonathan

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 01:40 PM

Vermeer, praised by Rand, also considered banalities important...



Where did you come up with the idea that Vermeer considered banalities important?

J

#16 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 01:51 PM

I think you're trying too hard. The Bechtles I've seen present ordinary subject matter with a lot of contempt, and they are full of irrelevant, unimportant detail. When an artist focuses on the banal, the prima facie conclusion is that he prefers this and finds it characteristic of his subjects. If you think he does it for some other reason, the burden is on you to make a case, preferably with supporting statements from Bechtle himself.

His precise, well-lit style is an asset, but he uses it to decidedly unromantic ends. My understanding is that with an airbrush, this isn't even as hard to do as it might have been a century ago

As long as you're citing Rand, remember her remark that, in art, one omits the unimportant. Then ask yourself what Bechtle finds important.




I sense that you are a true exponent of the Ayn Rand school of art criticism. Your review come complete with psychologizing the artist even unto to the point of mental telepathy. Imagine that. You knew exactly what he was thinking!

Ba'al Chatzaf


אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע




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