Contemporary Art Online | New York

Contemporary Art Online | New York

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 223. The Ballerina.

Property from an Important American Collection

Chuck Close

The Ballerina

Lot Closed

July 21, 07:43 PM GMT


12,000 - 18,000 USD

Lot Details


Chuck Close

b. 1940

The Ballerina

signed and dated 1962

oil on canvas

Canvas: 83 by 61½ in.  (210.8 by 156.2 cm.)

Framed: 85¼ by 64 in.  (216.5 by 162.6 cm.)

The Pace Gallery, New York

Private Collection, Seattle

Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Before Chuck Close created his first seminal ‘photorealistic’ (a label that Close himself resists but is often attributed to his work) paintings, he was primarily fascinated by the work of Willem de Kooning and the other abstract expressionist painters. Executed in 1962 when Close had just begun his studies at Yale, The Ballerina is a prime example from the artist’s early exploration of Abstract Expressionism. The influence of de Kooning is clear in the current work, which recalls de Kooning’s masterpiece, Woman I (1950-52), insofar as both works abstract the female form on a monumental scale. Just like de Kooning, Close renders the female form grotesque by reducing it to expressive panels of color. In this way, both artists blur the lines between abstraction and figuration.

At Yale, Close was also drawing inspiration from his impressive group of peers, which included now-famous artists such as Brice Marden, Richard Serra, Vija Celmins, and Robert Mangold. It was within this creative milieu that Close began to find himself as an artist. Even though Close’s abstract expressionist work bears little resemblance to his ‘photorealistic’ portraits that he began in 1967, these gestural paintings did to some extent serve as his artistic foundation. As his career and his style have developed, Close has increasingly integrated an abstract sensibility into his portraits. In the ‘80s, Close began composing his portraits with expressionistic, abstract ‘pixels’, which, from a distance, cohere to form a legible portrait. This balance between figuration and abstraction recalls and even seems to come out of Close’s exploration of de Kooning’s biomorphic abstractions in the early ‘60s. In retrospect, Close’s beginnings in Abstract Expressionism become an unlikely but important precursor to his later portraits.