Remembering Chuck Close

Chuck Close died at a hospital in Oceanside, New York on Thursday, August 19th, of cardiopulmonary failure. He was 81.

The large portraits that Close created during the late 1960s of himself and his fellow artists, garnered him much acclaim at a time when Abstract Expressionism and Pop art were the popular movements of the time and portraiture had been an almost forgotten art.

What made the works of Close so extraordinary was that he had a condition called prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, which left him incapable of recognizing faces, including his own. At the 2015 World Science Festival, hosted by Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich, Close discussed the condition with neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, who also had face-blindness. The episode, Strangers in the Mirror, sheds light on the reason that Close was so interested in painting faces in the large, grid style that he perfected over his long career.

Close was born in Monroe, Washington in 1940. He struggled with dyslexia in school, yet still managed to complete his MFA from Yale in 1964.

In 1988, Close was paralyzed from the neck down from a spinal artery collapse. After a long period of rehabilitation, he began to paint again, using paint brushes strapped to his wrist and with the help of studio assistants.

In 2006, he painted a portrait of former President Bill Clinton, who had awarded him a National Medal of Arts in 2000.

Close was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, and dementia in 2015.

In 2017, his career was marred when several women who had posed for portraits in his studio accused him of inappropriate behavior. Close apologized, but a 2018 show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington was cancelled. Close’s doctor told The New York Times that his behavior could have been a result of his dementia. “[Close] was very disinhibited and did inappropriate things,” he said, “which were part of his underlying medical condition. Frontotemporal dementia affects executive function. It’s like a patient having a lobotomy – it destroys that part of the brain that governs behaviour and inhibits base instincts.”

Close is survived by his daughters, Georgia and Maggie, and four grandchildren.

His work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and many other major museums around the world.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the work of Chuck Close available at VFA.

Ken Johnson and Robin Pogrebin. Chuck Close, Artist of Outsized Reality, Dies at 81. The New York Times. August 19, 2021. The Guardian. August 20, 2021.
Tim Jonze. Chuck Close, painter of outsized photorealist portraits, dies aged 81. The
Adrian Searle. In your face: how Chuck Close built images and tore them apart. The Guardian. August 20, 2021.

Chuck Close: Battle for Artists’ Royalties is Over

The works of Chuck Close have garnered historically high prices at auction.  Close and other artists would like a percentage of the auction price, but, after a seven-year legal battle, the judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal said that’s not going to happen.

The History of Droit de suite

The practice of droit de suite, French for right to follow, began in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. The idea was to help “starving artists” and their families receive some compensation from the sale of their work. Resale royalty laws for artists are in effect in more than sixty countries, including Australia and most of the countries in the European Union.

The droit de suite laws vary from country to country and, in the United States, it has only been in effect in California. The California Resale Royalty Act became law thanks, in part, to Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg sold his 1958 painting Thaw to art collector Robert Scull for $900. When Scull sold part of his collection at a Sotheby’s auction, and the painting went for $85,000, Rauschenberg began his campaign to have artists compensated for their work when it is resold.

He was initially unsuccessful, but in 1976 the California Resale Royalty Act finally became law. The Act gave artists a royalty payment, under limited circumstances, and only in California.

Chuck Close’s Legal Battle

In 2011, Chuck Close, Laddie John Dill and Robert Graham’s estate filed a suit against Christie’s, Sotheby’s and eBay that asked for royalties after the resale of their work. A few weeks ago, the court shot down the California law, saying that it conflicts with the federal Copyright Act.

The  copyright law protects composers, writers, filmmakers and other creators, who may receive royalties for their work, but does not do the same for visual artists. The copyright law’s first-sale doctrine states that once a copyright owner sells work for the first time, they lose control over future sales.

Chuck Close at Auction

What Chuck Close, and the other artists who brought the suit, were hoping for, was a part of the proceeds from high auction sales.

Close’s portraits have commanded high price at auction.  Phil, 1983 portrait of Phillip Glass, sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2006 for $3.2 million. His 2007 Self-Portrait sold at Christie’s New York for $2.4 million in 2015. Close’s record stands at $4.8 million, for John, 1971–72, which sold at Sotheby’s New York in May 2005. Close’s estimated net worth has been estimated at $25 million.

Chuck Close For Sale at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about the Chuck Close Artwork for sale at VFA.

See More Chuck Close Artwork for Sale

Jori Finkel Appeals court largely strikes down California’s artist resale rights law The Art News July 10, 2018.
Angela M.H. Schuster New York’s Richest Artists: Cindy Sherman, Chuck Close and More The Observer December 10, 2014
Rain Embuscado Here Are Chuck Close’s 10 Most Expensive Works at Auction artnet news July 14, 2016.

Chuck Close: Getting a Good Deal in Miami

The extraordinary Chuck Close continues to create outstanding portraits, in a variety of media, despite his age (he turns 77 in July) and his being wheelchair bound since 1988.

From Long Beach to Miami Beach

Close spends much of his time in his studio in Long Beach, New York, and winters in Miami Beach. Last month he closed on a 1,316-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath condo at the Setai in Miami for $3.4 million. It’s the second condo he’s bought in the building. This apartment is on the 25th floor and has views of the beach.

The apartment was listed for $4.2 million…which means that Close got it for about $800,000 less than the asking price.

Close In the Subway

Since January 1, when the Second Avenue Subway line opened, New York City subway riders have not only been able to shorten their commute time, but can also view twelve large portraits done by Chuck Close. Close, along with Vic Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin were commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to create permanent works for the Q Line stations, which serve about 200,00 riders who travel to and from the Upper East Side. This is the first major expansion of the New York subway system in more than 50 years.

The portraits that Close has done, are of consummate New Yorkers, like Lou Reed, Phillip Glass, Alex Katz, Zhang Huan, Kara Walker, Cecily Brown, Cindy Sherman…and two self portraits.

Ten of the portraits are done in mosaic tiles, two in ceramic tiles and measure nearly nine feet high.

Because of his limited mobility, Close worked with the Canadian company, Mosaika, to help him to create the large murals with the fine details that is quintessential Close.

Used to exhibiting in museums and galleries, Close grapples with seeing his art in public spaces, “Well, I’m not a big fan of public art, to tell you the truth,” he said in an interview in Architectural Digest, “because there’s value in choosing to go look at stuff. You choose to go to a museum or a gallery. I don’t necessarily want to bump into it in the street. Even by really great artists.”

“They say more people will see my work in one week than will have seen it in all the museum and gallery shows I did, so it’s such a different magnitude.”

Many commuters take selfies in front of his Subway Murals. “It’s an odd relationship between a viewer and a piece of public art, so I had to grapple with that.” he said, “And I thought, Well, everybody’s gotta go into the subway anyhow. And if they don’t want to see mine, they can take a different entrance.”

Chuck Close at VFA

The Subway Portraits are based on Close’s earlier works, like his 2013  Self Portrait (Yellow Raincoat), for sale at VFA. It’s interesting to see how Close used his technique in the details of the watercolor print and the details in the mosaic.

Please contact us for more information about the work of Chuck Close, for sale at VFA.

See More Chuck Close Artwork for Sale

Chuck Close in London

Chuck Close has long been one of America’s favorite portrait artists and an American treasure. Most of Close’s portraits are of Americans…his friends, celebrities, his family and himself. His work is part of the permanent collections of many major American museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, but, until now, has not been included in any permanent collection in the UK.

Just as the Smithsonian collects portraits of historically important Americans, the National Portrait Gallery in London houses portraits of historically important Brits.

So it was quite an honor when Close was commissioned to do a portrait of Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, from 2002 to 2015. Before his service at the NPG, Nairne was director of programs at Tate and was closely involved in the creation of the Tate Modern.

It is a tradition for a portrait of the retiring director of the NPG to be commissioned, and Close was suggested because of his association with Nairne when a self portrait of Close was exhibited at the NPG in 2005.

I went away from the Gallery feeling both pleased and humbled that Chuck had responded so magnificently to the Gallery’s invitation. I hoped I had played my part.”
— Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Nairne traveled to New York and met Close at the studio of photographer John Reuter, who owns a 20X24 Polaroid camera, one of only five such large-format devices ever built in the 1970s and still working.

In an essay in About Face magazine, Nairne wrote, “I was over-self-conscious about my appearance, and aware that if I became a Chuck Close Polaroid then every hair and pockmark might end up showing. And I was equally conscious of my expression. Should I be smiling? With my mouth open or closed? How could I not look stiff and get some degree of warmth into my expression?”

Close created a water color portrait from the photo taken that day. “Flecked here and there with Chuck’s subtle choice of colours,” Nairne wrote, “it is a work as much about portraiture as about me. I went away from the Gallery feeling both pleased and humbled that Chuck had responded so magnificently to the Gallery’s invitation. I hoped I had played my part.”

Chuck Close donated the portrait to the National Portrait Gallery.

See Chuck Close Artwork for Sale

Recent Works from Skilled Masters

For more than fifteen years, VFA has focused on bringing our clients fine art prints created by extraordinary artists. Our recent focus has been on three extremely skilled artists who have been producing Fine Art Prints for many years.

Alex Katz, Chance

We used Late Summer Flowers the work of Alex Katz, one of our favorite artists, on the cover of our eBook, How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints, because Katz’s work is such a fine example of masterful printmaking.

Alex Katz is not just a printmaker, he’s also a painter and sculptor. His recent work, Chance, available at VFA, is Katz at his most playful.

Katz began making, what he calls cutouts, in 1959. Frustrated by the physical boundaries of the paintings he was working on, Katz cut out the two figures in the painting. He says that Robert Rauschenberg encouraged him to hang on to them, and so he mounted them on plywood. He liked the results and continued to make cutouts. In 1961, playwright Kenneth Koch saw an exhibition of Katz’s cutouts and commissioned him to make props and sets for his one-act satirical play George Washington Crossing the Delaware. The play was an underground success, as was Katz’s work.  Katz’s cutouts of George Washington Crossing the Delaware are part of the Smithsonian Collection.

A large version of Chance was placed in a London fountain for public viewing before being taken to the Timothy Taylor gallery in Mayfair.

Mel Bochner, Amazing and Right On

Mel Bochner, one of the leading figures of Conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s, has brought printmaking to a whole new level. Not only is his work compelling, but his techniques are, as well.  He has been creating digital images with Plexiglas plate cuts, which are turned into prints, using a high pressure hydraulic press.

Bochner’s works are thoughtful, often funny and ironic. His work is currently on display at the British Museum and at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Portland.

In the complex works, Amazing and Right On (for sale at Vertu), Bochner uses his thesaurus-like themes to explore language, design and art itself.

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait 2015

The miraculous thing about Chuck Close is not that he’s 76, paralyzed, and still paints, but that he’s 76, paralyzed and still paints so well. According to a July, 2016 New York Times Magazine interview, Close has been more seclusive, forgetful and physically compromised than ever, but he still works with the fervor of a young artist.

His Self-Portrait 2015, available in our gallery at this time, shows an older, scrutinizing self. The woodcut is done in his usual grid, but the image, with white beard and irregular features, appears as if Close is coming to terms with his older identity.

Please contact us if you would like information about these or any of the other works in our gallery.

Donald Sultan & Chuck Close

Donald Sultan and Chuck Close: Six Degrees of Separation

A recent New York Times article, featuring the work of photographer Walter Weissman, shows a photo of Chuck Close in front of Donald Sultan’s Domino painting.

When we found a photo of Donald Sultan in front of the same painting, we took a closer look…and found the six degrees of separation between the two artists.

Connecting the Dots

I discovered about 150 dots is the minimum number of dots to make a specific recognizable person. You can make something that looks like a head, with fewer dots, but you won’t be able to give much information about who it is.
—Chuck Close

Donald Sultan plays with the patterns of dots on dominoes, buttons and flowers. They play an integral part in his work and help to create the strong patterns in his prints.

The dots that Chuck Close uses are composed of multiple colors and shades, which he has perfected over the years, to represent the varying tones in each part of the face. Close says the system that he has created, is like a language that allows him to work up close, in the grid.

The grid is what we walk in, live in.
—Donald Sultan

Following the Grid

For Donald Sultan, who has done much of his work in Manhattan, “The grid is what we walk in, live in.” He begins his work, especially the larger paintings, with a very careful chalked grid, placed over a tarred surface. His prints are often done in squares, and even his sculptures are close to square.

Chuck Close, who has overcome dyslexia, prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) and a paralyzing stroke that has left him wheelchair bound, uses the grid to create portraits from photographs. “Overwhelmed by the whole,” the grid helps him to break the photo into parts that he can deal with, both visually and artistically.

Chuck Close and Donald Sultan Prints

Artists don’t compare themselves to each other based on money. Nobody really knows what money other artists have. They don’t care that much. The measure is the work and how you think your work is perceived. How the museums are. How you are doing.
—Donald Sultan

Both Close and Sultan have focused on creating high quality prints. Close has worked with skilled printmakers to create silk tapestry portrait prints, like the one of his friend, Phillip Glass, available at Vertu.

Sultan also works with outstanding printmakers to create his superbly textured silkscreens.

The works of both Donald Sultan and Chuck Close are part of the permanent collections of MoMA, The Tate, The Centre Georges Pompidou and the Parrish Art Museum. Terrie Sultan, Donald Sultan’s sister, is the Director of the Parrish Art Museum. She is the author of, Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration.

The Parrish Art Museum is in Water Mills, New York, about three miles from Bridgehampton, where Close lives and works, and about seven miles from Sag Harbor, where Donald Sultan lives and works. It’s about a ten minute drive from Chuck Close’s house to Donald Sultan’s house. Both Chuck Close’s prints and Donald Sultan’s prints are available at Vertu Fine Art Gallery.

Chuck Close: Process, Piecework and Portraits

Viewing the works of American Contemporary Artist Chuck Close is much like traveling to a familiar place, but taking a new route every time. The artist, who is best known for his large scale photo mosaic portraits, continues to be one of the more fascinating New York artists living today. Like all masterful artists, Chuck Close has perfected a signature style that’s unmistakably his. For decades, Close has been creating portraits using grids that organize every segment – allowing him to apply fine interpretive embellishments – while maintaining photorealistic effects on a large scale. The result is “picture perfect” portraits from a distance that reveal incredible shapes, colors and textures when inspected closely.

One of Chuck Close’s favorite subjects, friend and composer Philip Glass, is featured in a limited edition silk tapestry currently for sale at our Boca Raton gallery. The tapestry showcases all that is captivating within this highly acclaimed large scale rendering of Philip Glass – yet another version of original that Close first created in 1969. Over the years, Chuck Close has continued to find new media and processes for interpreting this image of Glass. From a single photograph shot in the late sixties, Close has perpetuated an iconic series spanning decades. The unruly hair, heavy eyes, pouty lips and contoured face of Philip Glass are so filled with character, the subject appears to have unlimited potential for further study. Chuck Close admits that he has considered retiring the image, yet it always seems to resurface. After more than 100 studies of the image, in 2005, Philip Glass returned the favor, composing a 15-minute song entitled A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close.

Another Chuck Close work that’s available at VFA is a rare unique portrait entitled Georgia 9-Part. This work serves as a microcosm of the artist’s intricate grid works. In viewing this instance of Georgia, it’s quite simple to see how the artist prefers to deconstruct the various zones of his subject – and upon admiring this creation, one can’t help but ponder how many other variations Chuck Close may have considered to represent her in this moment. Georgia, Close’s daughter appears at various times throughout the artist’s body of work, and of course, in a wide array of media. Using a Polaroid camera contributes much to the nature of this work as well. The familiar qualities of this breed of instant print provides us with the certain expectations about the format of the image’s instant framing – and in manipulating these nine images, Chuck Close preserves this quality for viewer as well – allowing us to see this composite as one large Polaroid print.

Some of the Close’s most popular works include his signature self-portraits, which provide introspection about this absorbing artist. Like a number of Post-War artists influenced by the likes of Pop Art masters such as Warhol, celebrity is piece of the puzzle. For Chuck Close, who has had his share of celebrity subjects − including President Bill Clinton in 2006 – his self portraits now carry the weight of celebrity subject as well. The 2007 Self Portrait signed edition screenprint for sale at Vertu Fine Art is among the finest produced. Created by way of the diagonal grid process for which Close is famous, this work consists of sublime shapes, colors and hues, permitting the owner to spend unlimited hours engrossed in its detail. Works such as this contribute to Chuck Close’s placement among those who comprise our nation’s collection of great Contemporary Artists.

If you are a Chuck Close collector, please visit us at our Boca Raton gallery and please contact us if you require assistance in sourcing a particular work.

Image top right: Chuck Close in 1969 with his portrait of Philip Glass.
Alex Katz, Good Afternoon

New Pop Art And Hyperrealist Works for Sale

As October rolls in, we find ourselves striding into our South Florida Contemporary Art gallery with a bit of extra enthusiasm, as we anticipate the start of the upcoming season. Hopefully, you are among our clients, family and friends who will soon be spending more time in our neck of the woods and will be afforded new opportunities to visit. We’re pleased to provide you with a quick snapshot of newly acquired fine art for sale at Vertu Fine Art.

It’s hard to imagine a better training ground for a Pop Artist than that of a sign maker and billboard painter. Such was the path that James Rosenquist took on his journey to becoming an important figure in the Pop Art movement. The commercial nature and large scale aspects of his working in the outdoor advertising industry as a young man served the artist well. During his career as a fine artist, he often worked in a similar large scale, and simply changed the messaging from sales to social commentary. Perhaps his most famous work was entitled, F-111, which paid homage to the powerful aircraft heavily utilized by the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam when Rosenquist painted it in 1964, interspersed with commercial images onto 23 sections, 10 feet high and 86 feet wide.
New at VFA is James Rosenquist’s Mirage Morning, a fascinating multi-dimensional lithograph with mixed media work. Colorful and imaginative, this Rosenquist piece has fast become a favorite among visitors to our Boca Raton Gallery.

The photorealism of Chuck Close has captivated our attention for years. Only from afar does the viewer of Close’s portraits feel like they are viewing a singular image. This work is nothing short of spectacular, especially when considering the artist’s process in developing this masterful work.

Each unit in Close’s grid is filled with organic abstract shapes and an intriguing palette − leading the viewer’s eye to a wonderful assortment of flowing shape and color. Chuck Close deconstructs and reengineers a whole new sense of the same being in this way.

Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. – Chuck Close

When you find yourself in the proximity of our Boca Raton art gallery, among the new art for sale that you’ll be glad you viewed in person is this suite of 4 canvases from a red hot artist in high demand, Carole Feuerman. Her hyperrealist sculptured swimmers continue to land in private, public and corporate collections worldwide. From her painted resin and bronze works to her prints, Carole Feuerman’s works have a sense of sweetness, calm and sincere appreciation for the human form.

Of the many Pop Art masters at VFA, Alex Katz is one who’s often viewed as an important yet peripheral member. Katz most certainly demonstrates Pop sensibilities, including the flat commercial feel of his subjects and monochrome backgrounds, and his affinity for large scale works and printmaking. Alex Katz was a powerful influence to many Pop Artists in the sixties and seventies. Though his works helped to introduce the movement, they’re void of any sense of self-promotion or indulgence that one conjures when considering  the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein or Rauschenberg. What Alex Katz has always possessed is a unique,  unflappable coolness and distance. The serene 1974 Alex Katz screenprint and lithograph, Good Afternoon, will surely pull at the heartstrings of a Katz collector.

Part of what I’m about is seeing how I can paint the same thing differently instead of different things the same way. – Alex Katz

One really special Pop Art work by Roy Lichtenstein that is currently for sale is the artist’s 1978 lithograph entitled, “Mermaid.” This print has all the Pop elements that made the artist a leader of the movement. His signature retro comic book style, simple forms, primary colors and lively subject matter − like all Lichtenstein works – somehow continues to reveal a bit more every time it’s viewed. The subtle background shapes and the comic-styled action make this a fun piece to own, for a Roy Lichtenstein collector or anyone who yearns to possess a classic piece of Pop Art.

For any collector of Pop Art, Optical Art or Abstract Expressionism, VFA in Boca Raton is a small oasis in South Florida. Please visit when you can and always feel free to drop us a line to let us know how best we can assist you.

Chuck Close Self Portrait

Chuck Close Artwork: Face Value

For a number of truly gifted artists, pursuing their craft is about something more than acquiring fame and fortune, it’s a chance to prove something important to themselves. Such is the case with American artist Chuck Close, whose foray into hyper-realism and photorealism are chiefly the results of self-serving motivations. While Close credits art critic Clement Greenberg for providing a healthy dose of inspiration, there’s more to the story.

In the late 1960s, when Greenberg declared that, “the one thing left that an artist can’t do is paint a portrait.” Chuck Close reports having famously thought, “All right, I like a challenge, and I won’t have any competition from anyone else. If painting was dead, figurative painting was deader than a doornail, and portraiture was the most moribund of all activities.”1

All right, I like a challenge, and I won’t have any competition from anyone else. If painting was dead, figurative painting was deader than a doornail, and portraiture was the most moribund of all activities.

The truth is that Clement Greenberg’s opinions were simply the tip of the iceberg for motivating Chuck Close. For Close, the act of capturing faces is self-serving beyond any indulgence of ego, the practice stems from an act of preservation. Close suffers from a medical condition called prosopagnosia, also known as “face blindness.” The artist literally has trouble recognizing faces of people who are even intimately close to him. Living with such an ailment means that Chuck Close has time and again unwittingly insulted people with whom he’s shared lengthy conversations and various social interactions, only to not recognize them even one day later.

To consider Chuck Close’s face blindness as his motivation to make portraits his niche, then one must also consider that his remarkable success as an artist is closely tied to overcoming a number of learning disabilities. Close describes his youth as being fraught with troubles emanating from his inability to keep up scholastically with classmates and friends. As a result, he latched onto the one talent he appeared to be gifted in spades. What’s so fascinating about Chuck Close’s artwork is that he overcame adversity to become an accomplished Abstract Expressionist painter, only to rather abruptly turn away, toward photorealism. Close challenged himself to find the art form that is indeed uniquely his own.

In addition to overcoming the learning disabilities of his youth, Chuck Close has also managed to persevere in spite of a severe spinal artery collapse suffered in 1988. The incident initially left him paralyzed from the neck down.  Fortunately, with physical therapy, the artist regained use of his upper body and has worked continuously, though with assistance. His work is nonetheless still in high demand, for very good reason.

The unique presentation of Chuck Close’s portraits have evolved via a variety of processes over the years.  His most recent technique embraces a grid system, with the artist mapping colors, textures, shadows and light − put forth in assortments of shapes – corresponding to sections of the image portrayed in associated spaces on canvas. From a distance, the viewer perceives the “photorealistic” work. Upon closer exploration of individual grid units, the abstraction of the photo rendering can be fully appreciated.  One of Chuck Close’s more famous works is the portrait painted of former President Bill Clinton in 2006.

Today, Chuck Close continues to work out of his homes in Manhattan and Bridgehampton, New York. If you’re a collector of Chuck Close, please be sure to visit us at Vertu Fine Art in Boca Raton, FL and peruse our collection of Chuck Close artwork for sale. If you’re seeking a particular piece from this incredibly talented national treasure, please contact us and we’ll be more than happy to assist.

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

We believe that the more you know, the more you will appreciate fine art prints.

In our Ebook you’ll learn:

  • A short history of prints from the earliest woodcut to contemporary processes
  • Which artists most influenced the making of fine art prints
  • What questions to ask when buying prints
  • The fundamentals of print identification
  • Terms and techniques for identifying fine art prints
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