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Between Painting and Reality

I chose to look at Phil, a painting by Chuck Close made in 1969. This painting seems like an optical illusion. The artist’s intent may have been to test the power of the eye, and how close to realism a painting can reach. One goal of photorealistic painting is to create an image that can pass as a photograph. 

Another special aspect of this painting is its size—108 by 84 inches—a common characteristic in Close’s photorealistic works. Its massive size allows for easier identification when viewed close up. Probably the painting also takes longer to make, which makes the result harder to see while working on it.

The painting is a portrait of composer Philip Glass, a friend of Close. It is just one of many paintings that the artist has made, and it is based on a passport-size photograph that Close took.

When I first saw the painting I wondered if it was just a blown up photograph—that is until I walked closer, and noticed it was actually a large-scale painting. With this in mind, it sometimes fluctuates between looking like a painting and looking like a photograph.

By Johaely

Chuck Close, Phil, 1969  69.102
Chuck Close, Phil, 1969. Synthetic polymer on canvas, 108 × 84 in. (274.3 × 213.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from Mrs. Robert M. Benjamin  69.102