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Remembering artist Chuck Close

Passage: Remembering artist Chuck Close
Passage: Remembering artist Chuck Close 02:25

It happened this past week … the death of a celebrated artist who faced both adversity and late-in-life controversy. Chuck Close died Thursday just outside New York City, of complications from a long illness.

Born in Washington state in 1940, Close was an early adherent of photo-realism.

Watch "Sunday Morning"'s first profile of Chuck Close from 1981: 

From 1981: Artist Chuck Close by CBS Sunday Morning on YouTube

He gained international acclaim in 1968 with a huge black-and-white self-portrait, and would spend the next 50 years re-defining just what a portrait was – breaking the human face down into pixelated squares, as he explained to our Charles Osgood back in 2007:

"It's a little bit like an architect picking a brick," he said. "You stack up the bricks one way, you get a cathedral. You stack up the bricks another way and you get a gas station."

From 2007: Painter Chuck Close, up close by CBS Sunday Morning on YouTube

In 1988 he suffered a serious spinal injury which left him partially paralyzed, but fortunately, he was still able to paint.

"Thankfully, if I'm only going to be able to still do something that I used to do, I'm pretty lucky that it turned out to be painting," he said.

But in 2017 several women accused Close of verbal sexual harassment, which led the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., to cancel his show. But while the controversy would color his legacy for years to come, the impact of his art is undeniable. 

Whatever history's judgement, for Chuck Close his life and his art were inseparable.

US artist Chuck Close sits in front of o
Artist Chuck Close sits in front of one of his self-portraits, on show in the Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany, May 24, 2007. HENNING KAISER/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

He told us, "There's no artist alive working today who gets more pleasure. day in and day out, year in and year out, than I do. Period."

Chuck Close was 81.

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Story produced by Robert Marston. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 

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