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‘It’s very much like an X-ray, in the sense that there’s nothing to hide behind.’ In the end it was von Furstenberg who was pleased with her portrait, and Close who was unsatisfied.
‘She’s a very beautiful woman, and I couldn’t get what I consider a good photograph of her.
He is beloved by fashionable New York, and his work – which can sell for millions – is held in the collections of most international art galleries, including Tate Modern. Since 1988 Close has been wheelchair-bound after a blood clot on his spine left him severely paralysed.
He is dyslexic, too, and has struggled with a rare neurological disorder called prosopagnosia or ‘face blindness’ since childhood.
Bruised and exhausted, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg stares into the camera, without a trace of make-up, the wrinkles of her then 64 years clearly visible.
The photograph was taken last year, six weeks after a skiing accident that left the fashion designer with a broken nose and a black eye.
‘Usually when I’m doing a nude, they immediately put a robe on the second I’ve taken a picture,’ he says, ‘but she sat there for hours naked and talking, so very comfortable.
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His portraits were – and still are – strikingly large (sometimes up to 6ft tall) and creating them involved dividing each canvas into a grid, and painstakingly filling each ‘pixel’ with layers of tiny brushstrokes.