Chuck Close, painter of outsized photorealist portraits, dies aged 81
Chuck Close, known for creating huge, highly detailed, photorealist paintings of himself and fellow artists, has died aged 81.
The painter rose to fame throughout the 1970s and 80s, depicting peers including Philip Glass and Cindy Sherman. But his career was marred by numerous allegations of sexual harassment made in 2017 but dating back to 2005.
Born Charles Thomas Close in Monroe, Washington, in 1940, the artist was raised by his pianist mother and plumber father, who died when Chuck was 11. He struggled at school with dyslexia but, as a keen painter from an early age, he went on to complete a master of fine arts programme at Yale in 1964 alongside other artists who would find fame, including Richard Serra and Jennifer Bartlett.
Close’s style changed over time. He added color in the 1970s, and drifted away from the strict photorealism of Big Self-Portrait towards a brushier, looser look. But he was forced to make a drastic change in 1988, when a collapsed spinal artery left him mostly paralyzed from the neck down. He eventually learned to paint again using brushes strapped to his hands with Velcro, and canvases his assistants prepped with grids. Some of Close’s later works show a loopy psychedelicism: each grid square might be accurate, or it could just as well hold a colorful blob that looks like a target, a hot dog or a teardrop until you step back to experience the whole.
Close, who had been diagnosed with dementia-related conditions in 2013, also had mobility issues, requiring him to use a wheelchair.
Close died at a hospital in Oceanside, New York, from congestive heart failure. He is survived by his daughters, Georgia and Maggie, and four grandchildren.