Chuck Close

Chuck Close: Leading Artist in Contemporary Art

Innovative Photo-Based Portraits

Featured Artist Article by Renee Phillips

Chuck Close is an internationally acclaimed artist and leading figure in contemporary art. He is best known for his large scale, photo-based portraits created using inventive painting techniques. He has produced many iconic portraits of artists, celebrities and other well-known public figures including Brad Pitt, Kate Moss, Lou Reed, Roy Lichtenstein and President Obama.

A Yale graduate, Close was born in 1940 in Monroe, Washington, the artist has lived and worked in New York since 1967. His art work has been shown in more than 200 solo exhibitions in more than 20 countries.

“I Love Making Art”

In 1988 when he was 48 years old an artery in his spine collapsed  and left him severely paralyzed. To this day Chuck Close  sits in a wheel chair with a brush strapped to his wrist to paint his magnificent, large paintings.

About this tragic event Close stated, “One thing that was clear to me early on was how important it was to have something to do – something that you’re anxious to get back to. I wanted to get back to work because I enjoy what I do. I love making art… It’s largely how I see myself. I’m an artist, therefore I have to make art.”

Chuck Close
Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 2004-2005

Ignoring Parameters

What many people may not know is the artist suffers from Prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness), in which he is unable to recognize faces. As a result of this affliction Close was first driven to paint portraiture to help him try and recognize and remember faces.

As an artist who transformed his challenges into triumph he stated, “Never let anyone tell you what you are capable of using parameters that don’t apply to you.”

Chuck Close
Chuck Close, Emma, Oil on canvas. © Chuck Close. Courtesy Pace Gallery. Photograph by Ellen Page Wilson, Pace Gallery

His Contributions to Printmaking

Although Close’s reputation is primarily that of a painter he is also a print artist, who has, over the course of more than 40 years, pushed the boundaries of traditional printmaking in remarkable ways.

In 2015 the Australia’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) presented Chuck Close: “Prints Process and Collaboration”, the largest exhibition of Close’s work ever presented in the southern hemisphere.

Chuck Close
Chuck Close, Phil, Silk tapestry, edition of 50. © Chuck Close. Courtesy Pace Gallery. Photograph by Ellen Page Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery

His Range of Printmaking Techniques

Close is recognized for his to large monumental photo-based portrait paintings; however, he has had a long involvement with the varied forms and processes of printmaking. His range of innovation includes etching, aquatint, lithography, handmade paper, direct gravure, silkscreen, traditional Japanese woodcut, and reduction linocut, mezzotints,  as well as water color pigment prints and Jacquard tapestries.

Learn more about Chuck Close on the Pace Gallery website


2 thoughts on “Chuck Close: Leading Artist in Contemporary Art”

  1. I am a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. And very proud to say that Chuck Close was one of my Painting Teachers
    He has taught me so much and I feel very fortunate to have had Chuck Close as my teacher. He is a wonderfully creative man and such an inspiration!
    Sincerely anne marie giardina

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