Not on view
Acrylic and graphite pencil on canvas
Overall: 108 1/4 × 84in. (275 × 213.4 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Mrs. Robert M. Benjamin
Rights and reproductions
© Chuck Close, courtesy Pace Gallery
Chuck Close made his inaugural series of works–eight large-scale, black and white paintings of faces—between 1968 and 1970. In this and other early “heads” (as the artist calls them), Close sets each frontally-depicted face against a neutral ground.
Phil is a portrait of Close's long-time friend, composer Philip Glass. Despite his intimate relationship with the subject of the painting, Close created this work in a calculated, systematic manner. The artist took an 8 x 10-inch photograph of the sitter, overlaid it with a penciled grid, and then painted a vastly enlarged blowup of each square onto the canvas using airbrushes to create a photographic finish. As a result of this drastic enlargement, we see Glass at an uncomfortably close distance from which every mole, hair, and wrinkle is visible. With its cool, almost clinical detachment from its subject, the work functions more like a giant mug shot than a portrait.
Chuck Close, Phil, 1969
Stop 502 from America Is Hard to See
Chuck Close, Phil, 1969
Narrator: Chuck Close has used the photograph this painting is based on many times over the years. It is of the artist’s friend, Philip Glass. But the painting, from 1969, was his first portrait of Glass, who later became one of America’s best-known composers.
Philip Glass: My reaction to the picture? I never really think of me as the picture, in fact it’s always just been an image, I don’t feel attached to it at all. Though other people might say, there’s Phil, but I never say that. I don’t think, when Monet was doing haystacks, the haystacks thought, hey I’m the haystack, it’s just another haystack [LAUGHS].I don’t think it was a portrait in the sense that when Rembrandt did a portrait or when Van Gogh did a portrait those portraits were partly to reveal some character of the person, the portraits were about the person. If these are portraits at all and I don’t think they are they’re not about revealing the portrait of the person they’re about revealing the artist.
Narrator: To hear Glass describe sitting for the photograph that Close used to make the painting, please tap the button to continue.