Close enough?

February 17, 2013

Since "Kunst Leistungskurs" at Highschool, one of my favorite artists has been the painter Chuck Close. His huge, photorealistic portraits of well or lesser known people have always fascinated me.

Fortunately, many of his paintings can be seen here in Washington, D.C., either at the National Gallery of Art or at the National Portrait Gallery (for example, those of Bill Clinton, Kate Moss, Philip Glass, and, most recently, Barak Obama).

A very impressive example of Close's work is "Fanny", a 1985 portrait of his grandmother-in-law. It is on display in the basement of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art:



On first sight, it looks like a huge black and white photograph (the left image):



On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that the painting entirely consists of fingerprints:





Chuck Close developed the fingerprint technique in the mid-l980s and has since used it to create numerous paintings. By varying the amount of paint and the pressure of his finger, Close was able to use this technique to precisely reproduce the facial features of his models and to achieve a wide range of tonal control. The results are pretty impressive. Standing right in front of this painting, you can't help but ask yourself: "How the heck did he do that?".

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