Robert Bechtle, Four Palm Trees, 1969
Oil on canvas, 45 x 52 in. (114.3 x 132.1 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, American Art Trust Fund, 2012.43
Artwork © Robert Bechtle
Photorealist artist Robert Bechtle is known for his images of residential neighborhoods, often based on photographs taken in his native Northern California. In Four Palms (1969) Bechtle presents a view of Dixon, a small town that he visited while teaching at the nearby University of California, Davis. This image of four majestic palm trees silhouetted against a backdrop of low-lying suburban homes at first resembles a postcard view of California—yet the stark, unpopulated, and slightly smoggy desert landscape is imbued with a sense of unease. Although palm trees now symbolize California's natural beauty, only one species—the California Fan Palm—is native to the state. Most were imported, and planted by real estate developers to convey a mythic ideal of California as a bountiful, Edenic paradise. Their presence—along with that of the treeless suburban subdivision—amidst an arid landscape evokes the constant conflict in California between nature and development.
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