Chuck Close

Chuck Close was an American artist renowned for his large Photorealistic paintings of friends, family and fellow artists — as well as for his self-portraits executed in the same manner. He focused on faces, which he photographed and then replicated on canvas.

Close was born in Monroe, Washington, in 1940. He dreamed of becoming an artist from an early age, supposedly after his father — an amateur inventor — made an easel for him when he was five. Close went on to study at the University of Washington and then Yale, where he earned an MFA.

His art was influenced initially by Abstract Expressionism, in particular the paintings of Willem de Kooning. However, he soon rethought his approach for good — and adopted what became his signature style.

Probably the most famous of his breakthrough works was Big Self Portrait from 1967–68 (today part of the Walker Art Center’s collection in Minneapolis). This painting of Close in black-rimmed glasses, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, is so precisely and convincingly detailed as to seem photographic.

The artist’s process for producing portraits and self-portraits was painstaking. First, he took a photograph of his subject, which he divided into a grid; then he created a corresponding grid, in proportion to it, on a huge blank canvas that he would paint square by square.

Subjects of his work included the composer Philip Glass, the model Kate Moss, and the artist Cindy Sherman. As years went by, he introduced colour into his work (having originally preferred black and white), and he embraced different media, such as prints and tapestry.

Arguably the biggest shift in his art, however, came after he suffered a spinal artery collapse in 1988, which left him in a wheelchair. Close’s subsequent portraiture was characterised by a looser, more gestural application of paint, and a slight move away from the photorealistic. In some cases, he even filled the squares with shapes resembling lozenges, hamburgers and amoebae — though somehow these still coalesced to form a human face when one looked at the picture as a whole.

Close was the subject of a major retrospective at MoMA in New York in 1998, which later toured the US and had a final stop at the Hayward Gallery in London.

In 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton, whose portrait he would paint a few years later (that work can today be found in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.). Close died in 2021, aged 81.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

1989: A Portfolio Honoring Artists Lost to AIDS: seven prints

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Self–Portrait

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Mark/Pastel

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Self-Portrait Maquette

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Bob I/154; Bob II/616; Bob III/2464; Bob IV/9856

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Self-Portrait

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Self-Portrait/White Dot Version

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Leslie (Seven Color States)

CHUCK CLOSE (1940-2021)

Self-Portrait / 8x1

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Study for "Keith/4 Times", 1975

CHUCK CLOSE (b.1940)

Self-Portrait

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Nat (Five color states)

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Self-Portrait

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Self-Portrait

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Phil III (black) (Pernotto 25)

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Phil I (White)

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Self Portrait

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Kate Moss, 2003

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Self-Portrait

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Self-Portrait

CHUCK CLOSE (1940-2021)

Phil/Manipulated

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Self-Portrait (Yellow Raincoat)

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Study for Linda

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Self-Portrait Woodcut

CHUCK CLOSE (1940-2021)

Self-Portrait

VARIOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS

The Indomitable Spirit

CHUCK CLOSE

James

CHUCK CLOSE (1940-2021)

Self-Portrait

CHUCK CLOSE (b. 1940)

Kate Moss, 2003

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Lucas Paper/Pulp

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Lucas Paper/Pulp

CHUCK CLOSE (1940-2021)

PHIL I (White)

Chuck Close (B. 1940)

Kate Moss, 2005

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Kate Moss, 2005

Chuck Close (b. 1940)

Kate Moss, 2003

CHUCK CLOSE (b.1940)

Kate Moss, 2003

CHUCK CLOSE (1940-2021)

Zhang Huan II

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Kate Moss, 2003

CHUCK CLOSE (B. 1940)

Self-Portrait Woodcut