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Elizabeth Joy Peyton (born 1965) is an American painter who rose to popularity in the mid-1990s. She is a contemporary artist best known for stylized and idealized portraits of her close friends and boyfriends, pop celebrities, and European monarchy. Peyton lives and works in New York, NY.[1][2]

Elizabeth Peyton
EducationSchool of Visual Arts, New York City
Known forPainting


Early life and educationEdit

Born in Danbury, Connecticut in 1965, Peyton began drawing and painting people at a young age.[3] Between 1984 and 1987, she studied fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.


The focus of her art has been the small-scale portrait. She cites as inspiration the studio portraiture of Nadar, Alfred Stieglitz and Robert Mapplethorpe, who all photographed their friends and intimates.[4] Her work is most often executed in oil paint, applied with washy glazes that are sometimes allowed or encouraged to drip, but also in watercolour, pencil, and etching. Her paintings are characterized by elongated, slender figures with androgynous features. Sexually ambiguous, feminine qualities are regularly emphasised.[5] Her work at times resembles fashion illustration. The artist, interviewed in the catalogue for the exhibition The Painter of Modern Life at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2007, has indeed acknowledged the importance of photography as an inspiration source for her art. She thus usually works from photographs.[6] Before switching to a digital camera in 2002, Peyton shot her subjects with either a standard 35-millimeter or a Polaroid camera — with little attention to composition or lighting. Several of them are blurred or slightly out of focus.[7]

Since 1998, when Parkett magazine commissioned her to create a lithograph, Peyton has created a broad range of prints, including monotypes, lithographs, and woodcuts.[8] Experimenting with different techniques, she also uses a variety of diverse and handmade papers as well as various colored and monochromatic inks. Her portrayed subjects populate both her prints and paintings.[9]

The idealization and stylization of known celebrities has led some critics to characterize her work as being in the tradition of Andy Warhol.[10] The artist has cited influence by David Hockney. Her celebrity subjects have included David Bowie, Noel and Liam Gallagher of the rock band Oasis, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Chloë Sevigny, Nicole Kidman, Princes William and Harry of The House of Windsor, Abraham Lincoln, Graham Coxon, Keith Richards, John Lennon, Marc Jacobs, Kurt Cobain, Kanye West, Eminem, Ludwig II of Bavaria, Peter Doherty, Carl Barât and members of The Kennedy Family. A painting of by Elizabeth Peyton appears on the 2010 compilation album The Best of Suede. In her paintings, Peyton hardly ever depicts these often young artists and musicians standing, and she never visually associates them with an activity like making art or music; instead, they are portrayed sleeping, reclining, or sitting.[11]

Since 2007 Peyton has incorporated the still life into her range of subjects with works such as Pati (2007), Balzac + Roses (2008), Flaubert + Madame Bovary (Elephants) (2008), Camille Claudel and Flowers (Still Life) (2009), Actaeon, Justin Bieber and Grey Roses (2010), Flowers, Lichtenstein, Parsifal (2011), and Berlin, Hyacinth and Black Teapot (2014).[9][12]

In 2009, Peyton collaborated with Matthew Barney on Blood of Two, an art project on the Greek island of Hydra.[13] She later worked with Jonathan Horowitz on a series of monotypes which develop upon the concepts of plants and flowers as motifs of love and death, resulting in a series of paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and photographs, as well as a collaborative artists book.[14]


Peyton's second breakthrough exhibition in New York City was held in a room of the Hotel Chelsea (mainly drawings) in 1993.[15] People who wished to see the exhibition would just go to the reception of the hotel and ask for the room key; fewer than 50 people viewed Peyton's charcoal and ink drawings of Napoleon, Marie Antoinette and Queen Elizabeth II.[16]

A mid-career exhibition of her work started at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City in October 2008, touring to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (2009–10). The first survey of Peyton's work in an American institution, the exhibition included her latest portraits, which revealed a greater emphasis on the psychology of the subject (such as Matthew Barney or John Giorno). The day following Barack Obama's election to the U.S. presidency, a new painting (oil on linen), created in August 2008, was added to the exhibition, representing Michelle Obama and her daughter at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The painting was commissioned by W magazine.[17] Laura Hoptman, the curator of the New Museum show, decided that the portrait would only be put on view if Barack Obama won the 2008 election, as the New Museum is a non-partisan institution.[17]

Other solo exhibitions include the Royal Academy in London; the Salzburger Kunstverein; the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg; the Irish Museum of Modern Art (2009); and “Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton,” a retrospective of the artist’s prints, presented concurrently at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and the Opelvillen in Rüsselsheim, Germany (2011). The second in a series of four Ring-inspired shows for Gallery Met in 2011, her show "Wagner" included works inspired by the composer’s Ring cycle.[18] In 2014, she contributed to another Gallery Met show, this time on the subject of Alexander Borodin's Prince Igor.[19] Most recently, Peyton exhibited at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art with her exhibition, "Elizabeth Peyton: Still Life"[20] and at the Villa Medici, Rome with her exhibition, "Eternal Idol,"[21] in 2017.

Peyton has also been included in numerous group exhibitions around the world including Campo at the 1995 Venice Biennale, Greater New York at MoMA PS1 in 2000, and the 2004 Whitney Biennial.


Works by Elizabeth Peyton are now in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris; the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; the Kunstmuseum Basel; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Saint Louis Art Museum; the Seattle Art Museum; the Boros Collection, Berlin; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.[22] The Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired about 30 Peyton drawings and paintings over the last years.[23]


In 2006, Peyton was the recipient of the 14th Annual Larry Aldrich Award honoring an artist who has had a significant impact on visual culture.[4] She was honored with amfAR’s Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS in 2007.[24]

Art marketEdit

Since the late 2000s, Peyton's career was endorsed by the art market where the price of her works has steadily increased (an oil on canvas representing John Lennon was sold for a record $800,000 in 2005;[25] the same oil on panel, entitled Craig, 1997, was sold twice at Sotheby's in New York City, first for $384,000 in May 2007 and then for $560,000 in November 2010).

Peyton has exhibited regularly at Gavin Brown's Enterprise in New York since 1995, at neugerriemschneider in Berlin since 1995, at Regen Projects in Los Angeles since 1997,[26] and at Sadie Coles HQ in London since 1998.[27]

Photographer Dennis Morris filed a complaint against Peyton in a Californian court in 2014, claiming that at least three works by the painter depicting Sex Pistols band members Sid Vicious and John Lydon infringed his copyright. Peyton denied all allegations, claiming fair use, among other defences. The case was settled out of court last year, with both parties agreeing to pay its own costs. In 2016, Morris again considered taking legal action over the painting John Lydon, Destroyed (1994), which was subsequently removed from a Sotheby’s contemporary art day sale.[28]


Monographs of Peyton's work have been published by Rizzoli, New York, most recently with her publication Dark Incandescence (2017);[29] Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; and powerHouse Books, New York.

Private lifeEdit

Peyton married fellow artist Rirkrit Tiravanija in 1991.[30] They separated in the late 1990s and divorced in 2004. She has been romantically linked to both men and women, including painter Tony Just,[31] artist Klara Liden,[32] and curator Pati Hertling.[33][34]


  1. ^ Elizabeth Peyton Archived 2011-11-22 at the Wayback Machine Sadie Coles HQ, London.
  2. ^ [1] Gladstone Gallery, New York.
  3. ^ Lack, Jessica (2009-04-08). "Artist of the week 36: Elizabeth Peyton". The Guardian. London.
  4. ^ a b Karen Rosenberg (July 11, 2008), A Painter's Social Network, Traced in Her Photographs The New York Times.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Peyton, 30 April - 30 May 2009 Archived 7 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine Sadie Coles HQ, London.
  6. ^ Andrew Purcell (July 1, 2009), Manhattan rhapsodies The Guardian.
  7. ^ Benjamin Genocchio (August 29, 2008), Casual Photos That Yielded Portraits The New York Times.
  8. ^ Bosie (1998) MoMA, New York.
  9. ^ a b Collector's Edition: Elizabeth Peyton - Camille Claudel Flowers and Books Hatje Cantz Publishing, Ostfildern.
  10. ^ Ken Johnson (August 18, 2006), Beautiful People Caught in Passivity by Peyton and Warhol The New York Times.
  11. ^ Lee Siegel (February 7, 2009), Painting Faces - How Elizabeth Peyton's portraits -- from Napoleon to Kurt Cobain -- are reinventing the genre The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ Elizabeth Peyton: Dark Incandescence, November 18, 2014 - January 16, 2015 Barbara Gladstone, Brussels.
  13. ^ name, Site. "ArtReview".
  14. ^ Secret Life, 7 June - 25 August 2012 Sadie Coles HQ, London congratulations you made it to the end .
  15. ^ Calvin Tomkins (October 6, 2008), The Artist of the Portrait The New Yorker.
  16. ^ Purcell, Andrew (2009-07-01). "Manhattan rhapsodies". The Guardian. London.
  17. ^ a b Maura M Lynch (November 2008), Michelle Obama at the Museum, W magazine, archived from the original on 2009-03-23, retrieved 2009-02-19
  18. ^ "Metropolitan Opera - Error 404".
  19. ^ Carol Vogel (January 16, 2014), Operatic Inspiration The New York Times.
  20. ^ ""Elizabeth Peyton: Still life" at Hara Museum of Contemporary Art".
  21. ^ "Eternal Idol, Elizabeth Peyton - Camille Claudel - Villa Medici".
  22. ^ Elizabeth Peyton, May 27 - July 28, 2011 Archived June 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Gagosian Gallery, Paris.
  23. ^ Rachel Wolff (April 13, 2010), Gavin Brown: The Heir Apparent New York Observer.
  24. ^ Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
  25. ^ "Elizabeth Peyton (b. 1965) , John Lennon 1964".
  26. ^ Elizabeth Peyton, March 10 - April 7, 2007 Archived July 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
  27. ^ Elizabeth Peyton Guggenheim Collection.
  28. ^ Anny Shaw (February 18, 2016), Sex Pistols photographer accuses artist Elizabeth Peyton of copyright infringement The Art Newspaper.
  29. ^ [2] Elizabeth Peyton, "Dark Incandescence" Rizzoli, New York.
  30. ^ Judith H. Dobrzynski (September 2, 1997), A Popular Couple Charge Into the Future of Art, but in Opposite Directions The New York Times.
  31. ^ Karen Rosenberg (July 11, 2008), A Painter’s Social Network, Traced in Her Photographs The New York Times.
  32. ^ (February 15, 2011), The Love List: Power Couples of the Art World BLOUIN ARTINFO.
  33. ^ Kevin McGarry (March 29, 2012), Out There | Pati Hertling’s Night Job Archived 2015-09-09 at the Wayback Machine The New York Times.
  34. ^ Anne Wehr (January–February, 2009), The Love List: Power Couples of the Art World Frieze Magazine

External linksEdit