Artist Chuck Close, known for photorealistic portraits, dead at 81

Artist Chuck Close, who was known for painting photorealistic portraits, died at the age of 81 on Thursday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Artist Chuck Close, who was known for painting photorealistic portraits, died at the age of 81 on Thursday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Artist Chuck Close, known for his photorealistic paintings, died on Thursday. He was 81 years old.

Close's lawyer John Silberman confirmed Close's death to The Washington Post and Adriana Elgarresta, director of public relations at the Pace Gallery in New York, said the cause of death was congestive heart failure.


Using an airbrush and diluted black paint, Close created highly detailed paintings based on photographs of himself and his friends.

Born Charles Thomas Close in Monroe, Wash., on July 5, 1940, Close graduated from the University of Washington School of Art in 1962 and later earned a bachelor's degree and a master's of fine arts from Yale University and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

RELATED 'Kill Bill,' 'Street Fighter' actor Sonny Chiba dies of COVID-19 complications

In 1967, he moved to New York where he developed his style of photorealist paintings drawing a grid on the photo and a larger version of the grid on a blank canvas creating "Big Self-Portrait."

The painting depicted him staring at the camera through his black-rimmed glasses while smoking a cigarette on a 7-by-9-foot canvas.

Close later evolved his process by adding color to the paintings and eventually scanning hand-painted marks into a computer which he used to produce portraits of artists Cecily Brown, Kiki Smith, Cindy Sherman and Kara Walker.

RELATED Maki Kaji, 'godfather' of numbers puzzle Sudoku, dies of cancer at 69

In 1967, during his first solo exhibition at the gallery at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he was teaching at the time, the university deemed several male nudes on display obscene and sent campus police to dismantle the show.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors sued on Close's behalf and won the trial but the decision was overturned on appeal.

In 2017, several women who came to his studio to pose accused Close of sexually harassing them between 2005 and 2013.

RELATED Jon Lindbergh, son of legendary aviator, dies at 88

The National Gallery of Art in Washington indefinitely postponed an exhibition of Close's work following the allegations.

A collapsed spinal artery left Close paralyzed from the neck down in 1988 but he was ultimately able to regain movement in his arms and sit up and paint using brushes strapped to his hand after months of rehabilitation.

He was also diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia in 2015.

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

Notable deaths of 2021

Norm Macdonald
Norm Macdonald, known for "Saturday Night Live," "Billy Madison," and "Norm," died after a private battle with cancer on September 14 at the age of 61. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Latest Headlines