Chuck Close first met Leslie Rose in 1965 while she was a student of his at the University of Massachusetts. By 1967, they had married and were living in a loft on Greene Street, in New York City. While working as a part-time teacher of photography at the School of Visual Arts, Close completed the Walker Art Center’s 1968, Big Self-Portrait, the first in a series of remarkably detailed large-scale portraits. These monumental pictures, painted with unprecedented detail, led to critical and commercial successes including an appearance at the 1969 Whitney Biennial, a one-man show at Klaus Kertess’ Bykert Gallery in 1970, and a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1973.
In the summer of 1976, at the invitation of Arne Glimcher, Close joined the Pace Gallery. While at Pace, after previously working almost exclusively with paint brushes, airbrushes, colored pencils and graphite, the artist debuted the fingerprint drawing series with Phil/Fingerprint, 1978. A departure from his previous deliberateness, the fingerprint drawings exhibited a sense of spontaneity, immediacy and lushness that marked a turning point in his career. Close had discovered a technique that retained a portraitist’s objectivity while becoming truly expressive, “Now, with the finger paintings, it was possible for everyone to see just how physical an experience it was. The physicality was very important and the personal mark. This is my actual body.” (Chuck Close from interview with Judd Tully, May 14, 1987, Smithsonian: Archives of American Art)
The present work, from a series of 8 portraits of important women in the artist’s life, depicts Leslie following the birth of the couple’s second child, Maggie Sarah. Close imbued these works with an emotional tenderness and personal intimacy, unique to the few years shortly after his mother’s death. Indeed, as the artist recalled, these works had, “been an attempt to find my new family -- to understand where I am now… This was a very sentimental journey for me, and these are images that were incredibly important and incredibly moving for me to make and also -- as I say -- cathartic." (Ibid.)
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