Painting Photography: Robert Bechtle and the Critical Legacy of 1960s Photorealism
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In the early 1970s, New York gallerist Louis K. Meisel devised a formal set of criteria to identify a group of artists he referred to as Photorealists. Despite the serious limitations of Meisel’s initial formulation, his criteria for assessing what constitutes Photorealism continue to dominate the critical discourse surrounding this artistic approach. This thesis revisits the critical legacy of 1960s Photorealism through a case study of artist Robert Bechtle and, in contrast to Meisel, identifies Bechtle’s work as deeply informed by other contemporary artists engaged with photographic imagery. By better appreciating Bechtle’s craft-based approach to the painting tradition and positioning his work in the broader history of the ongoing “dialogue” between painting and photography, this thesis ultimately provides a more expansive and robust understanding of Photorealist practices in the 1960s as well as their critical legacy.