Curiously, this embrace of grid regularity is coupled with one of Bechtle's most fanciful departures from his source photograph: the dramatically darkened sky encroaching from the left. The invented weather, however, is not an attempt to balance the 'monotony' of Doelger row houses with a foreboding sky, but rather an art historical allusion. According to Bechtle the choice was inspired by Ambrogio Lorenzetti's image of a city set against a dark sky in his early Renaissance fresco, Allegories of Good and Bad Government (1338-40). Moreover, the dark sky is intended to conjure some locational specificity: as Bechtle notes, these lighting conditions occasionally appear as part of the city's famed, thick fog banks. (Similar lighting effects appear in Pirkle Jones's photograph of the Sunset from 1951.) Bechtle's painting is a tautly configured study of light and shape, using the built environment to experiment with properties of surface, shadow, color, and brushwork. But the work is also a visual measure of architectural planning; both the perspectival compression and the palette generate subtle indications of spatial and atmospheric experience. Here seeing yields physical comprehension, offering not only a view of the under-remarked residential Sunset, but also a vibrant sense of how these development patterns inform urban experiences.
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