About the Artist
Chuck Close was born in 1940 in Washington. After earning his BA from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1962, Close attended Yale University. During his time at Yale, Close was exposed to a contemporary curriculum that inspired his artwork. With his MFA completed in 1964, Close began experimenting with different styles of painting drawn from his studies of contemporary art. Inspired by portraiture, Close began creating large black-and-white photo-based portraits in the style of Photorealism. Photorealistic paintings resemble photography in their close attention to detail. The subjects of these large portraits were mostly Close’s family members, friends, and fellow artists.
Over the next few years, Close’s work continued to evolve and, while still painting portraits, he also began transferring images onto canvas using a grid system, copying grid segments from images into corresponding cubes in his paintings. Close started to break away from Photorealism through the act of physically incorporating the grid layout into his paintings. There is an illusion present in Close’s portraits. When inspected closely, a grid of squares is visible, each containing various colors and abstract shapes and forms; yet, when viewed from a distance, the squares morph into a clearly defined portrait.
In 1988, Close was diagnosed with an artery collapse, which he refers to as “The Event.” As a result of his condition, Close suffered complete paralysis from below the neck. During his rehabilitation process, Close was encouraged by his wife to try painting again. With limited movement in his arms, Close was able to paint using a paintbrush-holding device that was strapped to his forearm and wrist. With the creation of a remote-controlled easel and help from studio assistants, Close continued using a grid system to create his portraits. Close began seeing each grid as a tiny painting within itself. The inspiration derived from this new painting process has resulted in Close’s portraits becoming more abstract and colorful.
About the Art
Janet, 1992, is a portrait of painter Janet Fish, a friend of Close’s from Yale University. Fish remembered arriving at Close’s studio without high hopes for the completed painting, preparing for a “not so wonderful” image. In the end, she was very pleased, saying he had captured “sparkle that I liked, a jump, and the way things moved very fast.” Close said he was interested in creating “with the strong darks and lights, this kind of sparkly, almost liquid effect.”
The process began with a photograph, which was enlarged to the size of the canvas. An identical grid was drawn on both the image and the canvas. Starting in the upper-left corner, Close completed the grid one row at a time. Each square is an individual abstract composition made up of different shapes. Like an illusion, when standing close to the painting, it is hard to discern Janet. The farther back you move, the clearer she becomes.