Have you ever visited an art gallery or museum and found yourself staring at a massive portrait of a face? If you are anything like me and the answer is yes, then chances are you were staring at a Chuck Close. If your answer is no, then you should put it on your bucket list. Either way, a piece by Close is easily recognizable because his style of painting. The majority of Close’s work follows an artistic style called photorealism, which it is the process of painting directly from a photograph. He would take pictures of his subjects, usually family or fellow artists, and he would overlay a horizontal-vertical grid over the photo and canvas. In the beginning of his career (late 1960s and early 1970s) his portraits were usually black-and-white realism. Then his portraits transformed into individual abstract color grids. From afar, these portraits create a detailed face but close up; they are seemingly random colorful and abstracted shapes.
- His first photograph he sold was to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for $1,300. This piece is the black-and-white self-portrait shown below.
- Close suffers from a disorder called Prosopagnosia, commonly known as face blindness, where it is difficult for him to recognize faces. This is a major reason why he is fascinated with painting faces because once the face is laid flat, it becomes easier for him to remember.
- In late 1988, Close endured seizures caused by a rare occluded spinal artery that left him mostly paralyzed below the shoulders. He has since regained some movements in his arms and legs but still relies on a wheelchair. When he paints, he tapes the paintbrush to his hand. It has been stated that this is one of the reasons behind his switch to abstracted grids, since detailed painting (such as his black-and-whites) are too tedious.
Finch, Christopher. Chuck Close: Work.New York: Prestel, 2010.
Friedman, Martin. Close Reading: Chuck Close and the Artist Portrait. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005.
Sultan, Terrie. Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.