Skip to Main Content


Fanny/Fingerpainting, a portrait of Close's grandmother-in-law, represents one of the largest and most masterly executions of a technique the artist developed in the mid-l980s. That technique involved the direct application of pigment to a surface with the artist's fingertips. By adjusting the amount of pigment and the pressure of his finger on the canvas, Close could achieve a wide range of tonal effects. Typically, he worked from a black and white photograph which he would divide into many smaller units by means of a grid. He then transposed the grid onto a much larger canvas and meticulously reproduced each section of it. The result is a monumental, close-up view that forces an uncomfortable intimacy upon the viewer.

Seen from a distance, the painting looks like a giant, silver-toned photograph that unrelentingly reveals every crack and crevice of the sitter's face. Closer up, the paint surface dissolves into a sea of fingerprints that have an abstract beauty, even as they metaphorically suggest the withering of the sitter's skin with age. The fingerpaintings provide a far more literal record of the artist's touch than most abstract expressionist brushwork -- but are at the same time dictated by an abstract, distinctly impersonal system.


upper left reverse: c 1985 / C. Close / "FANNY/FINGERPAINTING" / 1985 / oil on gessoed canvas


(PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York); purchased 1987 by NGA.

Associated Names

Pace Gallery

Exhibition History

Chuck Close: Recent Work, The Pace Gallery, New York, 1986, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
Chuck Close: Retrospektive, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany; Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, 1994, no. 12, repro.
Chuck Close, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Seattle Art Museum; Hayward Gallery, London, 1998-1999, no. 161, repro.
Chuck Close - Pinturas: 1968-2006, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, 2007, no. 13, repro.
50 Years at Pace, The Pace Gallery, New York, 2010, no. 107, repro.


Lyons, Lisa, and Robert Storr. Chuck Close. New York, 1987: 18, 39-40. 144, 145, repros.
Strick, Jeremy. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture: Selections for the Tenth Anniversary of the East Building. Washington, D.C., 1989: 142, repro. 143.
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 143, repro.
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 277, repro.
"Gallery Q." Quantum 6, no. 1 (September/October 1995): 2, repro.
Morris, Bob. "The Night: True Tales From the Night Of the Living Hamptons." The New York Times (30 July 1995).
Yau, John. Chuck Close: Recent Paintings. Exh. cat. PaceWildenstein, New York, 1995: 10-13, repro.
The Portraits Speak: Chuck Close in conversation with 27 of his subjects. Intro. by Dave Hickey; Ed. Joanne Kesten. New York, 1997: repro. 227, 237.
Allen, Henry. "Art; Chuck Close, Up Close And Impersonal; At the Hirshhorn, Staring Abstraction Right in the Face." The Washington Post (22 October 1998): B1.
Shiff, Richard. "Allover You: The Art of Chuck Close." Artforum (April 1998): 95-96.
Wiens, Ann. "Headshot: An Interview with Chuck Close." New Art Examiner 26, no. 1 (September 1998): repro. 41.
The Washingtonian (July 2000): 81, repro.
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 456-457, no. 385, color repro.
Finch, Christopher. Chuck Close: Life. Munich, Berlin, London, and New York, 2007: 119-120, repro. (detail) 120, repro. 121, 332.
Finch, Christopher. Chuck Close: Life. Munich, Berlin, London, and New York, 2010: 209, repro. 210, 211.

Related Content

  • Sort by:
  • Results layout:
Show  results per page
The image compare list is empty.