Chuck Close

14 October 2005


A new self-portrait by the American artist Chuck Close has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Gallery's major autumn exhibition, SELF PORTRAIT Renaissance to Contemporary. Close has painted Self-portrait, 2005 especially for inclusion in the exhibition, which runs from 20 October 2005 - 29 January 2006.

Chuck Close (born 1940) is one of America's leading artists. Originally an abstract painter, Close began work on a series of large-scale portrait 'heads' in 1966, coming to the attention of the art world with his iconic black and white Big Self Portrait (1967-8). Over the next twenty years Close achieved critical acclaim for his paintings of his family and friends, meticulous studies taken from photographs. Close takes photographs of the sitter and uses a grid to replicate the image on canvas, producing a large-scale head in which every facial detail is painstakingly recorded. Since being confined to a wheelchair after suffering a collapsed spinal artery in 1988, Close has altered his studio to accommodate the restriction in his movement. Continuing to use photographs and to concentrate on large-scale canvases, he creates portraits from abstract squares of colour, which combine to form the face of the sitter when viewed at a distance.

The detail, which is evident in Close's portraits, means that each painting takes a considerable amount of time to produce, and this particular self-portrait has taken five months to complete. Close maintains that the 'process' of his painting is as just important as the finished work of art, therefore each of the small squares which make up a portrait head is of equal importance. His paintings confront the viewer with the huge, overwhelming presence of the sitter, but when viewed close-up each abstract block of colour appears unique.

Sandy Nairne, Director, said 'A new Chuck Close portrait is something special. I am very pleased that Chuck decided to make a new self-portrait, and to offer London viewers the chance to see it first'.

Chuck Close said, "it should be very interesting to see how I fit into the long series of conventions and traditions of portrait painting".

This portrait will go on display in the Main Hall, as part of SELF PORTRAIT Renaissance to Contemporary, and complete this major exhibition featuring self-portraits by 56 artists from 1433 right up to the present day. Artists featured include Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Kahlo and Bacon. This exhibition is jointly organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. It is curated by Anthony Bond, Head Curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Dr Joanna Woodall of the Courtauld Institute of Art.


A fully illustrated book accompanies the exhibition with essays by Anthony Bond, Joanna Woodall, T J Clark, Ludmilla Jordanova and Joseph Leo Koerner. SELF PORTRAIT: Renaissance to Contemporary will be published in October 2005, 300 x 245mm, 224 pages with 140 illustrations, price £30 (hardback).

Notes to Editors

  • Self-portrait, 2005 measures 2756 x 2134 mm (108 _ x 84")
  • In the first of a series of talks to accompany the exhibition, Chuck Close will be talking to Tim Marlow about his career at 7pm on Friday 21 October at the National Portrait Gallery. Tickets £5/£3. For more information call 020 7306 0055
  • For more information about Chuck Close please contact Jennifer Benz Joy, Public Relations Associate, PaceWildenstein Gallery, 32 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022 Tel: 212.421.3292

National Portrait Gallery opening hours: Saturday-Wednesday 10am-6pm, Thursday and Friday 10am-9pm
Recorded information: 020 7312 2463
General information : 020 7306 0055
Admission is free.

For further press information please contact: Sarah Crompton Press Office, National Portrait Gallery, Tel 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email


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