Chuck Close

(Monroe, Washington, 1940 - )

North America, American

Chuck Close is best known for large-scale portraits that exhibit photorealism, a style of painting so detailed it can be mistaken for photography. Close received a BA from the University of Washington in Seattle and continued on to receive an MFA from Yale University in 1964. The following year, Close received a Fulbright fellowship to study in Vienna, Austria. Close settled in New York City in the late 1960s, where he drew inspiration from diverse art sources, including minimalism, process art and photography.

Close composes his portraits from photographs, which he also considers independent artworks. His meticulous method involves dividing the photograph into a grid and painting each cell individually. This technique slows down the painting process and imposes limitations on expression, which Close paradoxically finds very freeing. While Close’s portraits represent people objectively—warts and all—it is worth noting that his subjects are usually intimate friends and family, and frequently, himself. Close believes one of the reasons he continues to be fascinated by portraiture is that he has a rare genetic condition called prosopagnosia, which makes it difficult to recognize faces as they move and change expression.

In 1980, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota organized Chuck Close’s first large-scale retrospective, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City. He continues to exhibit nationally and internationally, and is widely collected. In the mid 1990s, Close’s portraits begin to emphasize the grid that underlies each painting with individual cells painted in contrasting colors, causing the representational image to dissolve into pure psychedelic abstraction as the viewer moves towards the canvas.

In 1988, Close suffered a seizure which left him mostly paralyzed from the neck down. With physical therapy he regained use of his arms and hands, and continues to create prints, tapestries, photographs and paintings.

New York, United States

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