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 NamesPace Gallery
- 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: 208-211, repro.