Renowned Artist Chuck Close, Former UMass Amherst Teacher, Elected Fellow of American Academy

AMHERST, Mass. - Chuck Close, a former member of the University of Massachusetts art department who The New York Times has called "the reigning portrait painter of the Information Age," has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was one of 12 Fellows elected in the category of fine arts.

The Academy is an honorary society that recognizes distinguished achievement in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities, and conducts various programs relating to societal problems. It was founded in 1780 and its membership now totals about 4,000. A total of 147 Fellows were elected this year.

Close is the third Fellow elected this year with ties to UMass; Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Provost Cora B. Marrett and Distinguished University Professor Lynn Margulis, biology, were the other two. Marrett was one of eight Fellows elected in the category of educational and scientific administration and Margulis was one of seven Fellows elected in the category of evolutionary and population biology and ecology.

Close taught at UMass from 1965-67 and received an honorary doctorate degree from the University in 1995. In April, the University’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts and the art department, in conjunction with the Alumni Relations Office, hosted a special reception for Close in New York City to celebrate a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Feb. 26-May 26.

Hanlyn Davies, who chairs the UMass art department, praised Close as one of this century’s major artists, and said his election to the Academy is "a distinct honor and well deserved." Davies called the current MOMA retrospective "one of the outstanding exhibitions of the century." What most impresses viewers of the retrospective, Davies said, is "the rigor, discipline, and intelligence behind the work, and the fact that these qualities have been behind the work for more than 30 years."

Davies said the retrospective "is a truly remarkable, even magical, demonstration of an artist’s life work, and is particularly appropriate as we near the end of the century. When you look back and ask how many exhibitions there have been as influential as Close’s, you’ll see there haven’t been many," he said.

Newly elected members will be formally welcomed to the Academy at an induction ceremony and dinner to be held at the House of the Academy in Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 3.