Chuck Close, the American artist who ascended in prominence in the early 1970s with his pioneering photorealistic painting, has died at the age of 81. Close’s attorney confirmed his passing to the New York Times. As a photographer and painter, Close emerged as one of the “first generation” photorealists, with his work defined by large canvases and paintings that were nearly indistinguishable from those of their photographic counterparts. (Perhaps you’re familiar with one of his most famous works, “Big Self-Portrait”: It’s nearly nine feet tall.) He worked prolifically after settling in New York City in the late 1960s, and gradually returned to work after a collapsed spinal artery left him partially paralyzed in 1988. “I’m either dumber than the average painter, which is a pretty scary thought, or maybe there’s something about my learning disabilities or whatever that I am really of the moment,” he told the Times in an old interview. “I don’t think much about the past, and I really don’t think about the future. I am surprised often that I’m still painting portraits at all, to tell you the truth.” In addition to that work, he produced a large body of extra-large-format photographic portraiture, including some for New York.
In 2017, Close apologized after several women came forward with sexual-harassment allegations against him, which included claims of encouraging them to pose topless against their will. He’s survived by two daughters.