This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY OF AN AMERICAN COLLECTOR


signed, titled and dated 'David Elizabeth Peyton 1988 ? 1989 ?' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
19 x 13 1/2in. (48.3 x 34.3cm.)
Painted in 1988-1989
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, held in the same collection since the early 1990s and never before seen in public, David (1988-1989) is a rare and exquisite early portrait by Elizabeth Peyton. Painted on panel—a resistant surface that brings Peyton’s deft, diaphanous brushstrokes to the fore—the young sitter appears in profile against a radiant blue backdrop. His fine, elfin features are conveyed in delicate detail, while loose lines and washes define his jacket and shirt. The work dates from the very dawn of Peyton’s career. She graduated from New York’s School of Visual Arts in 1987, and held her first solo exhibition a year later. The present owner shared a studio with Peyton in New York, and remembers the strength and surety of her vision from the start. With its luminous, unapologetic beauty, David declares her practice fully formed.

In 1993, with an intimate show of drawings held in a suite at the Chelsea Hotel, Peyton began an unlikely rise to acclaim. Her idealised, wistful pictures—depicting historical figures including Napoleon Bonaparte and King Ludwig II of Bavaria—caused a stir even at a time when figuration was out of fashion. In 1995, her pale, incandescent paintings of the recently-deceased Kurt Cobain caught the eye of critic Roberta Smith, who called them ‘part Abstract Expressionist, part Renaissance miniature, with a touch of Pre-Raphaelite romanticism’, and admired their ‘offhand intensity’ (R. Smith, ‘Blood and Punk Royalty to Grunge Royalty’, The New York Times, 24 March 1995, section C, p. 30). To this day, Peyton is enraptured by people who change or define the time they live in. Her subjects, often painted from photographs, range from rock stars and royalty to inspirational friends and acquaintances. They all share the imprint of her fascination, and the distinctive glow of her touch. Fluid and immediate, her paint glides across its hard support with a vital sense of movement. She works on gessoed panels that are sanded to jewel-like smoothness, and even painted some early works on found glass.

A romantic, literary sensibility pervades Peyton’s paintings, which often catch their sitters in moments of contemplation. She was inspired early on by the fin-de-siècle worlds of Marcel Proust and Henry James, and, in 1986, by a revelatory John Singer Sargent show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. ‘It seemed like he painted in a way that was so fast, so open, and so abstract that it was almost a miracle that the paint somehow landed on the canvas to make a portrait’, she later recalled. ‘… The show coincided with a moment in the mid-1980s when beauty—and painting—was being questioned in critical theory, so it was reassuring to see this huge body of work that celebrated both of those things’ (E. Peyton, ‘Elizabeth Peyton on John Singer Sargent’, Harper’s Bazaar, March 2015, p. 344). In David, as a charismatic smile plays across the subject’s lips, the stage is set for a practice that would keep the painting of beauty alive for years to come.

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