A luminous palette and rhythmic energy of line combine with realism to make Elizabeth Peyton a painter of modern life.
Born in Connecticut in 1965, Peyton studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where she lives and works. Executed in oil paint, watercolour, ink or pencil, her small but intense portraits may be inspired by photographs in the media, but often and increasingly they are drawn from life.
Citing literary influences such as Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert, she shares their absorption with reflecting a social milieu. Peyton portrays artists and musicians of her own generation including Matthew Barney, Jake Chapman, and Angus Fairhurst, Jarvis Cocker and Liam Gallagher. She also pays tribute to iconic figures who have inspired her, including the young Elizabeth II, Georgia O’ Keefe and Frida Kahlo.
This survey of some 70 paintings also includes depictions of historical figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Ludwig II and Eugène Delacroix. In their modest scale, tightly cropped composition and sense of intimacy, Peyton’s works directly relate to photography. It is their lens-like ability to capture fleeting moments of light and colour, and to convey both the brightness and the brevity of youth, that give her paintings their depth and poignancy.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated monograph published by Phaidon Press, with essays by Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator at the New Museum, Iwona Blazwick, Whitechapel Gallery Director, and poet John Giorno.