Art History: Chuck Close



“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”
― Chuck Close


Chuck Close was one of those artists that had a short period of fame while I was growing up. He made huge, amazingly detailed portraits. The Milwaukee Art Museum has one in their collection. It is hard to really get a grasp on how breathtaking they are without seeing one in person.



His technique was amazing, as was his attention to detail. It wasn’t until hearing about his death that I started to read more about him. I knew about his paralyzing from the neck down and always thought it was due to a car accident. It turns out it was caused by a seizure. His whole life seemed to be full of tragedy. As a child he suffered from a neuromuscular condition, a bout of nephritis and he struggled with dyslexia. Ironically, for an artist known for his portraits, he also suffered from prosopagnosia, which means he could not recognize faces. After his seizure, which he called, “The Event,” his style of painting changed. His portraits were still just as amazing but now he started experimenting with the way the eye perceives light and color. While I find his early work to be great, it was this abstraction that I found intriguing.



His later life was not easy either. He withdrew from public life amid accusations of sexual misconduct in addition to being diagnosed with dementia. He continued to work and grow as an artist which looking at the quote above and his history it isn’t hard to see why. He clearly worked hard and had a determination that rose above what life put in his path.