Throughout his career, Chuck Close has relied on portraiture as the key component in his art and is known for paintings in which his subjects' faces loom large. This monumental painting represents a new direction his work took in the mid-1990s. The entire canvas is filled with a portion of the subject's tightly cropped, frontally positioned face, and background space is almost totally eliminated. Close does not accept commissions--he paints only self-portraits, members of his family, friends, and people associated with the art world. His paintings are derived from photographs taken of his subjects. For this work, his model was Paul Cadmus (1904-1999), a prominent American figurative painter best known for his works of the 1930s.
In the 1960s Close began to use a grid to organize his compositions. In Paul III this grid is rotated 45 degrees, forming diamond shapes that are filled with bright, multi-colored circles, loops, and dots. Each diamond is an independent abstract painting, bursting with energy, gesture, and color. The overall effect is like a kaleidoscope, always changing as the viewer moves. Up close, the image is nearly impossible to read. At a distance, however, the individual elements crystallize into recognizable facial features.