Chuck Close (1940-2021), an artist who painted large head portraits composed of small geometric forms, brush-stroked into a coherent image. His style and works displayed a unique relation between photograph still and canvas paintings. Close has been an exception with having several physical misfortunes at different stages of his life. The massive scale photorealist and abstract portraits of himself and his peers are a gem to the international art collection.
Chuck was born in Monroe, Washington. His father Leslie Durward Close, was a plumber and metal sheet worker, who died when Chuck was 11 years old. His mother Mildred Wagner Close, was a piano teacher. He struggled in high school as he had severe dyslexia, though he excelled in his evening art classes at Everett Junior College in 1958-60.
In 1962 he completed his B.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle, along with this in 1961, he won a coveted scholarship to the Yale Summer School of Music and Art. After that in 1964, he received his Master’s in fine arts graduation degree from Yale University. Following this, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and returned to the US. He worked as an art teacher at the University of Massachusetts hereafter. Chuck moved to New York City in 1967 later.
Chuck Close’s Style
Close had an unconventional manner of combining small Geometric forms, derived from gridded photographs, often square or rectangular to paint use heads often his own on a great scale. He holds a significant contribution to the art of portraiture through painting techniques as ink, graphite, watercolor, fingerprinting, stamp pad ink on paper, etc, on his larger-than-life-focused artworks. Chuck Close had prosopagnosia Due to which he was unable to recognize new faces eventually which inspired him to do portraits, through which he could recognize and recall faces. In 1967-68 the Big Self Portrait, a 02.7 m high canvas portraying Chuck himself in a black and white color scheme, with head tilted up in a cigarette loosely held between his lips. The minute details such as chest hair and the hair curls casting a shadow on his forehead and blurred the line between photograph and painting. “I am very interested in a nose as a shape”, said Close.
The source is a photograph that was divided into a grid drafted for reference work. Then he replicated the image piece by piece, each fragment was roughly filled with color ultimately going in unison with the overall piece from a distance. Later on, he crafted artworks on a non-rectangular grid with CYMK color schemes, with his essential tools being razor blades, electric drills, and airbrushes. In 1986-1987 he painted his fellow artist Lucas Samaras, which hangs on the walls of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This oil and graphite canvas represents his later works of more colorful and different great style. Lucas, the realist portrait can be seen as a composition of separate colorful markings in a close-up, which makes a greater sense When viewed from a distance.
Prints: Chuck Close, was also a great printmaker throughout his career journey. Many of his print works are published by the Pace Editions, New York. On this path, he worked with numerous renowned printers and artists. His first print project was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1973. Since the 1970s, Chuck created prints in a variety of mediums. Alex/Reduction Block, Print Project by Chuck Close, is a systematic series of oil portraits that comprise 15 progressive proofs. The 7 x 5’ prints have been composed of dots, dashes, and other marks to appear as a magnified head of the subject. The first seven prints in dark grey tone show the successive stages of carving on the surface of the linoleum block. The later seven shows a cumulative series with ascending darker tones of grey. And the project’s final print, the last proof, consists of seven layers of ink.
Source: Official Chuck Close website. 2014–2016 Chuck Close
On December 7, 1988, Chuck Close was attending a ceremony for local artists in New York. After receiving his award and delivering the speech while he was making his way down the street to Beth Israel Medical Centre, where he suffered a seizure, making him paralyzed from the neck till the bottom. He used to call this incident of his life “The Event”, Which had a significant impact on how he continued his artworks. For the following months, he was in rehab undergoing physical therapies to strengthen his muscles. He had a little improvement, though had to rely on a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Chuck was a strong-willed person, he continued to paint with a brush tied to his wrist with a band. Even with such a disability, he was able to achieve the level of work. The less control over material and matters did not affect him. Techniques used by Close after this incident were small bits of irregular grids or inked fingerprints to achieve photorealism.
The book Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists by Jean Kennedy Smith and George Plympton, reads aloud how to physical challenges that came on clothes throughout his life affected him and his art.
Janet (1989) A magnificent portrait of artist Janet fish, composed of abstract blobs on a square grid. The piece remains to be the last completed portrait by Chuck close before hospitalization.
The artist’s first solo exhibition was held at the University of Massachusetts Art Gallery in 1967 displaying paintings and drawings based on photographs of records cover and magazine illustrations. The Walker Art Centre was credited for launching his career by recognizing and purchasing Big Self Portrait (1968). Also published Chuck Close: Self Portraits 1967-2005 co-authored with Madeleine Grynsztejn and Siri Engberg. From time to time his works have been displayed on various international platforms and art galleries. “Process and collaboration”, Showcase not only his finished prints and paintings but also the tools used for the same.
Chuck Close received the national medal of arts from President Bill Clinton in 2000. He had painted in 2006, President Bill and photographed the then-President Barack Obama in 2012. With being a numerous awards recipient like New York State Governors Art Award, Skowhegan Art Award, etc, He was appointed by Obama to the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities in 2010, which he later resigned in 2017. Along with this from Yale University he held over 20 honors degrees. Philip Glass, in 2005 wrote a musical portrait of Close.
In his later life, he was accused of sexual misconduct on 20 December 2017 in reports published by The New York Times and the Huffington Post, accounting back to the years 2007 and 2013. Responding to which he did issue an apology in the newspaper. Later at the age of 81, he died on August 19, 2021, from congestive heart failure.