In June, we visited the America’s Presidents exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Here we found the extraordinary portrait of William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd U.S. President (1993 – 2001), created by the artist Chuck Close in 2006. From a distance, this portrait looks like any other traditional portrait, but up close it is quite different.
William J. Clinton by Chuck Close
According to the plaque beside the portrait,
“Chuck Close begins all of his paintings by taking a photograph of his subject, in this case an image made during a photo session in August 2005 for a New York magazine cover. He then creates grids on both the canvas and the photograph to replicate the information contained in the photograph with a series of abstract modules.”
“Over the years, Close’s grid got looser, the squares larger and filled with more intuitive shapes. Close has compared them to Byzantine mosaics, ‘where an image is built out of discrete incremental marks – chunks of stone or glass – that fit together. I want people to see what made the image. I like dropping crumbs along the trail like Hansel and Gretel.'”
We believe that this portrait fits the theme “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” perfectly:
Something old: Portraits have been painted since ancient times.
Something new: The technique used in this painting has evolved to its current form during this century.
Something borrowed: The portrait is on loan to the Gallery by Ian and Annette Cumming.
Something blue: Close’s most frequently-used colors are red, yellow and blue. The color blue is especially apparent in the portrait in Clinton’s eyes and hair.
This photo below shows part of the fence around the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The following photo shows strollers admiring the Seine River. The fence separates the path from Square du Vert Galant on Île de la Cité in Paris, France.
The next photo shows enlarged photographs of dogs and their owners. The photos are hung from a tall fence along a street in Paris, France.
This photo shows the façade of the Cathedral of Málaga in Málaga, Spain. Vignetting was added in post processing to frame the entry. Note the ornate fence at ground level as well as the simpler fence (railing) above.
The final photo shows a bride and groom being photographed in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. The fence eliminates crowd clutter while preserving the beauty of the cathedral.
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre is the inventor of the photographic process known as daguerreotypy. Daguerreotypes made using his process were most commonly used in 1839-1860. (Fun fact: The first genuine image of Abraham Lincoln was a daguerreotype taken in 1846.)
As we were walking outside the National Portrait Gallery, on the sidewalk of 7th St N.W. in Washington, D.C., we spotted the Daguerre Monument in memory of Louis Daguerre.
A bust of Daguerre sits on a granite base, in front of a huge world globe. A garland is draped over the world and Daguerre. A statue of a woman (“Fame”) stands before him.
There are three inscriptions on the memorial:
TO COMMEMORATE THE FIRST HALF-CENTURY IN PHOTOGRAPHY 1839-1889. ERECTED BY THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, AUGUST, 1890
PHOTOGRAPHY, THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH, AND THE STEAM ENGINE ARE THE THREE GREAT DISCOVERIES OF THE AGE. NO FIVE CENTURIES IN HUMAN PROGRESS CAN SHOW SUCH STRIDES AS THESE.
The monument, being on the lawn of the National Portrait Gallery, is enclosed by the same fence that surrounds the Gallery.
The regular rhythm and rigidity of the fence is softened by the newly emerging leaves of the trees in the landscape.