Anamorphic Self-Portrait by Chuck Close


Chuck Close. Self-Portrait (anamorphic), 2007. Publisher: Two Palms. Edition: 4/20. Engraving with embossment on black Twinrocker handmade paper, mounted on wooden box/platform, with polished stainless steel cylinder. 24 x 24 x 12 inches. Printer: Douglas Volle. Acrylic printing plate: David Lasry. GA 2008.

For more than 600 years, artists have been experimenting with spatial illusion to the great delight of the viewing public. A wonderful timeline of experimentation in perspective theory and spatial illusion has been mounted by the Getty at:

One optical technique is the anamorphic or distorted image, meant to be understood only when viewed at an acute angle or through a reflective cylinder. Some well-known examples of anamorphosis in art are the drawings in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks or the skull in the foreground of Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting The Ambassadors (1533, National Gallery, London). More recent examples can be seen painted on the stairs leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the stairs leading out of Pennsylvania Station in New York City.

Last fall, American artist Chuck Close created his first two anamorphic portraits at Two Palms studio in New York,, utilizing a complex system of laser engraving and embossing. His Self-Portrait (Anamorphic), now in the collection of graphic arts, is a perfect example of the artist’s belief that “how an artist chooses to do something is often as important as what the artist chooses to do.” The image begins, like all his work, with a straight photographic portrait. His friend Phillip Glass once commented that for Close, the photograph “is simply the carrier for the idea; the occasion for the work to take place.”

Close divided the photograph into sections and painted each section abstractly and yet, when viewed at a distance the image reads as a realistic portrait. Then, a set of these portraits was distorted into a circular pattern, which was engraved by laser onto an acrylic plate. Once inked, the plate was pressed into hand-made paper using an overhead hydraulic press that can exert up to 750 tons of vertical pressure evenly on the paper and plate. The final image can only be seen realistically through a polished cylinder placed in the center of the design.

The graphic arts division at Princeton holds a wonderful collection of optical devices together with a collection of the optical prints and photographs to be used with each device. A small selection is currently on view on the second floor of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library.


This got posted under the wrong article I am re posting it...

You know I think it's sad when famous artists like Chuck Close get all the credit for imaginative work that they didn't even come up with first...if you go to the gallery site for Mixed Greens in New York City you would see that a young artist named Rob Conger did this exact piece...using a different portrait image and a much funnier medium at least 2 years ahead of Close. No it is not a print so perhaps you can't imagine delving out of your own little box far enough to experience other types of work..but Conger created the piece using black, grey and white latch hook, creating a circular rug and then placed a stainless steel trash can in the center to reflect the portrait. As far as I can see Close's piece is a rip off and not nearly as humorous or clever...two years after the fact.

Brenda Oelbaum

Ok. So if we're getting down to it- Neither of them did it first. Leonardo da Vinci actually used this method of drawing- both Close and Conger produced derivative pieces- hundreds of years after....

And it was in the orient before that.

No one should be giving anyone credit for originating this form, it's been around forever. It's neat to see his art reinterpreted in this form, however.

artist A.S.Virdi

Did you think about adding more photos or a video to your blog? It is a great blog and this may even make it better.

Recent Comments

  • Hard Hat Decals: Did you think about adding more photos or a video read more
  • a.s.virdi: artist A.S.Virdi read more
  • Schuyler: And it was in the orient before that. No one read more
  • Becky H: Ok. So if we're getting down to it- Neither of read more
  • Brenda Oelbaum: This got posted under the wrong article I am read more