Chuck Close (1940, Monroe, WA, USA – 2021, Oceanside, NY, USA).
A legendary portrait painter and master of photorealism, Chuck Close is one of the most influential artists of his generation, renowned for his meticulous detail and innovative technique, which deeply impacted both American culture and the international art community.
In an artistic journey that lasted more than 50 years, Close revolutionized the art scene, transforming the canons of academic portrait and experimenting in different forms—from Polaroid photography to oil painting, mosaic-tilework, and tapestry. He created portraits from tonal grids of fingerprints, pointillist dots, brushstrokes, paper pulp, and countless other media.
In 1962, Close received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. Immersed in abstraction, he radically changed his style after graduating from the Yale School of Art in 1964, beginning to work in photorealist techniques, creating large-format Polaroid images and transferring them to canvases. In 1967 he had his first solo show, and in 1971 the Los Angeles Museum of Art opened a major exhibition with a series of black and white portraits.
One of the first artists to use the camera in the late 1970s to make photographs as both the basis for painted portraits and as works themselves, Close created his own iconic tool by putting a grid on the photograph and then transferring a proportional grid to the large-scale canvases.
Close’s signature method can be considered as follows: a subject is photographed; the photographic image is transferred onto a large oil painting on canvas via a systematic, grid-based rubric. As the painting progresses, a series of colors are concentrically inserted into the cell, creating combinations that alter the way we perceive the overall color. “Optical blending” is the phenomenon by which the human eye merges neighboring colors into a single hue. A viewer’s encounter with any work by Close hinges on this process, for the eye works first on a micro level to combine the colors in each cell into a single bit of color information, and then on a macro level, to add up the mosaic of individual bits, as the abstraction of the grid coalesces into an image of a human face.