Chuck Close began studying art when he was about ten years old. At school, drawing and painting were the few areas he excelled in and found rewarding. Throughout the 1960s, Close studied Abstract Expressionism in the United States and Europe. After years of painting abstract images, Close became frustrated by his inability to paint original shapes or use more than the same few colors. His portrait painting evolved from early investigations that explored the relationship between reality and illusion.
Close began painting portraits of his family and friends on extremely large-scale canvases in 1970. Rather than working with live models, Close uses photographs of his subjects as the foundation for their portraits. He precisely incorporates every detail of the photograph, allowing himself limited interpretive freedom and providing a disciplinary ". . . set of right and wrongs." According to this literal standard, an accurately depicted detail is right; anything not in the photograph is wrong and should not be depicted in the painting. Although Close follows the same process for each portrait, he has experimented with various materials and techniques to achieve the effects he desires.