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Collections Browse Big Self-Portrait

Image Rights
Close
Image
Courtesy Walker Art Center
Rights
© Chuck Close

Copyright

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Title
Big Self-Portrait
Artist
Chuck Close
Date
1967–1968
Dimensions
unframed 107.5 × 83.5 × 2 inches
Materials
acrylic on canvas
Location
Not on view

Object Details

Type
Paintings (Paintings)
Accession Number
1969.16
Inscriptions
In paint reverse LM “Big Self Portrait Charles Close 1968 acrylic on canvas”; N.A.
Physical Description
self-portrait of the artist
Credit Line
Art Center Acquisition Fund, 1969
Object Copyright
© Chuck Close

object label Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1967-1968) , 1999

I am not trying to make facsimiles of photographs. Neither am I interested in the icon of the head as a total image. I don’t want the viewer to see the whole head at once and assume that that’s the most important aspect of my painting. I am not making Pop personality posters like the ones they sell in the Village. That’s why I choose to do portraits of my friends–individuals that most people will not recognize. I don’t want the viewer to recognize the head of Castro and think he has understood my work.–Chuck Close, 1970

Chuck Close’s approach to the canvas was inspired by the non-hierarchical, all-over surface of American painting epitomized for him by the work of Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock. After taking a picture of his subject, Close makes photographic prints that he uses to transfer the images to canvas. Utilizing a technique devised by Renaissance masters and adapted by contemporary billboard painters, Close overlays a working print with a numbered and lettered grid, and then reproduces the image block by block.

In this format the image becomes a mosaic of black, gray, and white visual information that the artist replicates by spraying a mixture of black acrylic paint and water onto the canvas with an airbrush. Specific features like the illusion of light reflecting off the hairs of his beard were achieved by scratching paint from the surface of the canvas with a razor blade. Big Self-Portrait was the first of Close’s no-signature series of monumental head-and-shoulder portraits.

Walker solo exhibition: Close Portraits, 1980

Label text for Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1967-1968), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1967-1968) Walker Art Center, 2002

“I am not trying to make facsimiles of photographs. Neither am I interested in the icon of the head as a total image. I don’t want the viewer to see the whole head at once and assume that that’s the most important aspect of my painting. I am not making Pop personality posters like the ones they sell in the Village. That’s why I choose to do portraits of my friends–individuals that most people will not recognize. I don’t want the viewer to recognize the head of Castro and think he has understood my work.”–Chuck Close, 1970

Big Self-Portrait was the first of Close’s series of monumental head-and-shoulder portraits. After taking a picture of his subject, Close makes photographic prints that he uses to transfer the images to canvas. Using a technique devised by Renaissance masters and adapted by contemporary billboard painters, Close overlays a working print with a numbered and lettered grid, and then reproduces the image block by block.

In this format the image becomes a mosaic of black, gray, and white visual information that the artist replicates by spraying a mixture of black acrylic paint and water onto the canvas with an airbrush. Specific features like the illusion of light reflecting off the hairs of his beard were achieved by scratching paint from the surface of the canvas with a razor blade.

Text for Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1967-1968), from the curriculum guide So, Why Is This Art?, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2002.

Copyright 2002 Walker Art Center

object label Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1968) Walker Art Center, 1998

“The thing I like about a photograph is that it represents a frozen, poem like moment in time.”–Chuck Close

Chuck Close’s approach to painting was inspired by the non-hierarchical, all-over surface of American painting epitomized for him by the work of Jackson Pollock. In Big Self-Portrait, Close overlaid a photograph of himself with a numbered and lettered grid, then reproduced the intricate visual details block by block–a technique devised by Renaissance masters and later adapted by contemporary billboard painters.

In this format the image became a mosaic of black, gray, and white visual information that the artist replicated by spraying a mixture of black acrylic paint and water onto the canvas with an airbrush. Specific features like the illusion of light reflecting off the hairs of his beard were realized by scratching paint from the surface of the canvas with a razor blade. Big Self-Portrait was the first of Close’s now signature series of monumental head-and-shoulder portraits.

Label text for Chuck Close, Big Self-Portrait (1968), from the exhibition Selections from the Permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 8, 1996 to April 4, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center