Self Portraits: Chuck Close

  Big Self Portrait 107.5"x83.5" acrylic on canvas 1967-68

Self Portrait  Jacquard Tapestry 2006

Self Portrait screen print 2007

Self Portrait collage 2008

Self Portrait II 36 x 30 oil on canvas 2011

 Self Portrait (detail) 2000

Cheryl Sameit has recommended that we look at the self portraits of Chuck Close (born 1940):
I enjoyed an exhibition featuring Chuck Close several years ago. His style and execution stuck with me. That someone would focus so often on their own face as subject matter seemed odd to me. Then again, it is a familiar yet ever-changing subject! As I moved though the exhibition I was supremely intrigued by the grid and patterns he used to compose his works--pixels in the digital world. Up close, the geometric shapes are small works of art on their own.
Chuck Close's portraits do appear to be part of the digital age; and his scrutinizing gaze at the particulars of the human face seems scientific, as though he were carefully mapping out new territory, or performing some kind of medical examination. His people are like characters in a Don Delillo novel, people I can't care about personally but who represent interesting ideas.

Chuck Close and his work seem to be everywhere. Not only is his work instantly recognizable by most people who have ever stepped foot in a museum, but his interviews are easy to find in print and on the radio. He's great friends with Philip Glass, and when he makes his appearance in the documentary on the composer, to me he seems as familiar as an uncle or old family friend.

While Chuck Close's first large portraits are finely detailed, he early on made a decision to put away the paintbrush and work with more experimental materials, while still relying on a grid. He has said that although painting more spontaneously can be more enjoyable, he is able to produce his powerful work though careful planning.  

Close suffers from Prosopagnosia, saying "I was not conscious of making a decision to paint portraits because I have difficulty recognizing faces. That occurred to me twenty years after the fact when I looked at why I was still painting portraits, why that still had urgency for me. I began to realize that it has sustained me for so long because I have difficulty in recognizing faces." 

1988, Close suffered a spinal artery collapse, leaving him with only slight movement in his arms and dependent on a wheelchair. He paints with a brush strapped onto his wrist with tape, which is downright amazing.


  1. the obstacles he has had to overcome are unbelievable. Great choice of an artist we should all be aware of...

    1. Yes, it's truly amazing what he's accomplished.

  2. The size of his works I saw in exhibition was astounding. Many were floor to ceiling! He is truly an amazing artist and I am glad to have learned more about him through his work. Knowing he has overcome such obstacles to share his art is inspiring.

  3. I first discovered Chuck Close in the wonderful book called, Wisdom. I can thoroughly recommend it. The interview with Chuck Close is wonderful. He says he doesn't like painting portraits of young people because their life doesn't yet show in their faces. So true.


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