Take 2- International Women’s Day Featured Artist: Elizabeth Peyton

Seeing as I take inspiration from so many female artists, I thought I had to celebrate more than one! Here is a little bit about another fantastic painter, Elizabeth Peyton:

Elizabeth Joy Peyton is an American painter who was born in Connecticut in 1965. Her most famous portraits are of attractive, androgynous young men painted in an idealised way; this usually reflects the audience’s view of the subjects as they range from popular musicians to royal heartthrobs. Although Peyton works in a range of media including watercolours and pencil, she is famed for her oil painted pieces. Her manipulation of this medium ranges from glazes and washes to thick, dripping strokes.

Peyton studied Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1984 as she showed artistic talent from childh
ood, creating portraits at a very young age. She completed her time at School of Visual Arts in 1987 and went on to be represented by Gavin Brown. In the same year she had her first ever solo exhibition at Althea Viafora Gallery in SoHo, which also happens to be the artistic heart of Manhattan where Chuck Close set up studio. This exhibit was followed by Matthew Barney’s inaugural exhibition; she later collaborated with him on an art project called “Blood of Two” in 2009 on the Greek island of Hydra.

Her next exhibition was03peytonslide1 in 1993 at the Hotel Chelsea where she displayed many charcoal and ink drawings of Queen Elizabeth II and famous French historical figures such as Napoleon and Marie Antoinette. It was a rather low key affair, with less than 50 visitors to the exhibit. Her 2008 exhibit at the New Museum of Contemporary Art gained a much larger audience and also resulted in her works touring other galleries in London, Minneapolis and Mastricht.  The show included portraits with a greater focus on the mind and personality of the subject. These portraits were joined by a new oil painting of Michelle Obama and her daughter commissioned by W magazine the day after Barack Obama’s election victory. The portrait was not allowed to be shown until after Obama’s victory as the museum is a party neutral.

Her pieces are often thought to resemble Neo-Romanticism- a modern twist on the Romantic Movement which was recognised for the whimsical images and idealised features, much like Peyton’s elegant and slender portraits. Many of her pieces, whether they are male or female, have emphasised feminine features such as eyes and lips, this gives her pieces a mysterious androgynous quality and makes them seem more like fashion illustration than an actual portrait. This refined style draws some comparison with pop artists Andy Warhol and David Hockney, particularly Hockney’s portraiture work.

Peyton painted many friends and boyfriends; however she is most famed for her portraits of celebrities. She tended to focus on celebrities in creative fields such as Liam Gallagher, Marc Jacobs and Matthew Barney but also painted world renowned figures such as Abraham Lincoln as well as Princes Harry and William of England. These iconic images usually sell for a large amount of money, in fact her portrait of John Lennon sold for $800,000 in 2005.  Her choice of subject is interesting particularly as she never paints them in action, they are always relaxed, usually sitting or in a reclined position. She tends to work from photographs, usually secondary sourced i19-blueliamwebmages that have taken her fancy in magazines and editorials.

She also worked with Jonathan Horowitz which resulted in a collaborative artists’ book as well as a series of paintings and prints amongst other pieces which stemmed from their initial work on monotyopes of flowers in which they studied their symbolism surrounding love and death. This was not Peyton’s first experience of monotypes, in 1998 Parkett magazine commissioned her to create a lithograph which led her to experiment with monotypes as well as other types of printing.



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