Jack Bechtel and the Doon School of Fine Arts

Jack Bechtel
Jack Bechtel

The Watson House has been a home to many famous artists over the years.  During the era of the Doon School of Fine Arts, one such artist was gaining a reputation as “Waterloo County’s finest artist since Homer Watson.”  

Jack Bechtel, a Kitchener native, served as a RCAF pilot in WII prior to teaching at the Doon School.  While his early works show the influence of the landscapes of Ontario, by the 1950s he began to experiment with abstract art, finding expression and emotion through the shapes that he was observing in nature.  

One such piece is here at Homer Watson House & Gallery, known as Dream Rocks (1961) 

Dream Rocks. Jack Bechtel. 1961. HWHG Permanent Collection.
Dream Rocks. Jack Bechtel. 1961. HWHG Permanent Collection.

Abstract works like this let viewers come up with many different interpretations of what’s being depicted.  

From a review of one of Jack Bechtel’s exhibitions:    

“The result, so far as we were concerned, is almost always satisfying and sometimes strikingly capable of rousing both immediate admiration and continuing to search for the meaning of the work.”  

Kemp Thompson 
K-W Record 

You may have already seen one of his larger works, the massive mural at the Kitchener Library, Enlightenment (1961), in which he wanted to represent the progression of knowledge through time.  

Enlightenment. Jack Bechtel. 1961. Kitchener Public Library.
Enlightenment. Jack Bechtel. 1961. Kitchener Public Library.

Jack Bechtel died from cancer at the age of 43. Though his life was short, he created an incredible amount of art – and his abstract works demonstrate the diversity of art styles present in the Gallery’s collection.  

Though Homer Watson himself may not have been a fan of modernist abstract works, artists like Jack Bechtel show us one of the many ways we can uniquely express ourselves and our ideas through different styles of art! 

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