Today we would like to remember Chuck Close, the iconic painter has unfortunately passed away on Thursday Aug 19, 2021. Born in Monroe, Washington, Close was known for painting extremely photorealistic portraits that were larger than life. Passing away from a congestive heart failure, the artist lived to be 81.
What makes a Chuck Close Painting stand out is not only it’s extreme accuracy but the techniques used to complete the painting. Using very meticulous methods such as superimposing grids, airbrushing, unique color mixing and a bit of abstraction, Close achieves a very distinct uniform feeling to each of his portraits.
He used a big grid system for each head he painted, focusing on a very small portion of the painting, one square after the other. Using this technique to almost map out and contour the human face, allows him to get extremely detailed and to scale accuracy of duplicating a face.
Close always worked from a reference photograph instead of painting live models. He uses a very high format camera to capture as much information of the subject’s face as possible. He uses reference because Chuck was born with a disability that caused him to have an extremely difficult time remembering faces. He said that in early school days, he realized that something was wrong when he kept forgetting who his classmates were. So if Chuck were to paint a live model, the moment their head would move, he would forget the face he was just painting and would have to start over.
As many of his portraits are extremely photorealistic, another style of painting Close used was a very stylized, simplistic yet abstract style of duplicating faces. He would use a similar technique using grids but would follow the reference very loosely, constructing the heads from simple shapes, layering bold colors over one another in clever ways that from close up, don’t look like much, but from far away come together brilliantly to display his subject.
All of Close’s paintings are massive, usually around 9 feet tall. The difficulty of painting something to scale that big is unmatched. Observing it, the viewers are forced to be confronted with a larger than life figure, looming over you. It creates a very unique distance between you and the work, creating a relationship with it that separates Close’s work from most.
Close’s battle with health was a persistent occurrence in his life.On December 7, 1988, after feeling a strange pain in his chest, the painter suffered from a seizure that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Because of this Chuck spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, causing him to have to adapt to a structured way of painting, using assistants and rotating canvases to help him with his mobility.
Thank you Chuck from the amazing art you gave to the world. As we all eventually go to the same place, let's celebrate the artist’s life and keep him alive as long as we are here.