Elizabeth Peyton, who lives and works in New York and Berlin, is an artist who is credited with having reinvigorated figurative painting in the 1990s, a move which facilitated the electrifying resurgence of portrait painting today. The focus of her work is the small-scale portrait.
Peyton studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and received her B.F.A. in 1987. In the early 1990s, she exhibited in alternative locales such as Room 828 of the Chelsea Hotel in 1993, with paintings of 18th and 19th century literary and political heroes, and in the Prince Albert Pub in London in l995.
A portrait painter, Peyton never paints her subjects grandly. She paints her subjects on a small, accessible scale. Her people are presented slightly elongated with androgynous, elegant features. Most of her portraits are executed with strong, gestural brushstrokes of diluted oil paint in tonal gradations with added glazes, which give her portraits a hurried, sketchy effect.
While sometimes she does paint directly from life, she usually uses photography as the source of inspiration for her mediated portraits of artists, actors, celebrities, musicians, opera singers, rock stars, members of England’s royal family, and even her own dog. She incorporates still-life into these portraits as she captures people at a transformative moment in their lives. She also makes etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs and produces works in watercolor, pencil, and pastel.
Peyton’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions in the United States and abroad. Her “Live Forever Now” was her first major museum survey, organized by the New Museum, New York in 2008. The following year this exhibit traveled to Minneapolis, London, and the Netherlands.
She had a solo exhibition in the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2009 and was honored with the Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Arts in 2011. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Carnegie Museum of Arts, Centre Georges Pompidou, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and San Francisco MoMA among others.