Elizabeth Peyton (b. 1965)
Kurt Cobain
signed, titled and dated 'KURT Elizabeth Peyton 1995' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
16 x 12 in. (40.6 x 30.5 cm.)
Painted in 1995.
Gavin Brown Enterprises, New York
Jack Pierson Collection, New York
Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

Lot Essay

Kurt Cobain is part of a celebrated series of portraits Elizabeth Peyton painted of the cult figure in 1995. Peyton collected images of Kurt from newspapers, magazines, record covers and music video stills and used them as a starting point for her work. Celebrity and adoration have always been fundamental themes in Peyton's work. Only a year after Cobain's tragic suicide, Peyton produced the present work, alongside the series that was included in her first solo exhibition at Gavin Brown Enterprises. Within the intimate storefront space of the gallery, these small expressions of devotion radiated intensity. This exhibition launched Peyton's career and established the significance of her work in portraiture. Other paintings of the Nirvana lead singer included Zok's Kurt, Alizerean Kurt, Blur Kurt, Kurt Sleeping, Kurt Smoking, and Blue Kurt. Each uniquely describe the complex emotions Peyton felt towards Cobain. The present work is uniquely composed of a translucent palette of watery blues and light yellows. Cobain's eyes make direct contact with the viewer, seducing us with his innocence. Unlike the nihilistic, grungy demeanor he often displayed, Peyton here portrayed him as compassionate but distant. The work resists feelings of irony -- her craft is genuine. Created during a period when other artists rejected the painted portrait, Peyton's work freshly rejuvenates the style. She employs the paint in a sulky, drippy manner, not afraid to expose her painterly brush strokes. Her vibrant, often primary colors expose the underlying personal sentiments that exist between the artist and her subjects.

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