Elizabeth Peyton: an introduction

I adore Elizabeth Peyton’s work for it’s deep intimacy and broad connection to popular culture. Early in her career she spoke as the theme of her work as being ‘love.’ In the face of paintings of popular culture icons like Kurt Cobain or  Leonardo di Caprio, this might seem odd. Pressed on her claim, she asserts that she’s spent more time with those figures — imaginatively — than many people spend with their partners. Similarly, her use of historical figures — Napoleon, Walt Whitman, FK Jr. — seeks to reveal something of history’s context and shifting context through narrative because of our interpretation and projections.

Her approach to paint has a profound confidence —- strong mark making, direct use of paint, complex layering of objects. She uses photographs, drawings, and direct observation in the creation of her pictures. 

Peyton often makes the point that she’s not a portraitist, but an artist who makes pictures of people. Regardless, from time to time her work is unmistakably portraiture — as in the case of her portrait of Angela Merkel for Vogue. In her process, she looked at a range of historical photographs of Merkel and attempted to make a portrait that captured her over time. 


Wikipedia: Elizabeth Joy Peyton (born 1965) is an American contemporary artist working primarily in painting, drawing, and printmaking. Best known for figures from her own life and those beyond it, including close friends, historical personae, and icons of contemporary culture, Peyton’s portraits have regularly featured artists, writers, musicians, and actors.

New Yorker Profile




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