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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Image World: Property from a Private American Collection

Liam + Noel in the 70’s

Liam + Noel in the 70’s
oil on canvas
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1997.
Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York
Private collection, London, 1997
Private collection, United States
Acquired from the above by the present owner
E. Peyton, Elizabeth Peyton: Live Forever, Tokyo, 1997, pp. 59 and n.p. (illustrated).
Parkett: Tracey Moffatt, Elizabeth Peyton, Wolfgang Tillmans, vol. 53, 1998, p. 87.
U. Grosenick and B. Riemschneider, Art Now: Volume 1, Cologne, 2002, p. 388.
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Lot Essay

Painted in 1997, Liam + Noel in the 70s is an exquisite portrait from the formative period of Elizabeth Peyton’s early career. Painted just two years after her watershed exhibit at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in West SoHo, New York, it depicts the two frontmen of the British rock band Oasis, the brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. It represents a fleeting moment in time, where Peyton’s brushstrokes and luminous, jewel-like color seems to affix the brothers in amber, infusing them with a sense of lost innocence.

Elizabeth Peyton is undoubtedly one of the most influential American artists of her generation who, in the late 1990s, helped to revitalize the genre of figurative painting. “There’s something I sometimes see in people that I get very excited about, that I want to keep,” Peyton has explained. “I’m always feeling that time is passing...And it’s tragic. So I want to keep those moments.” (E Peyton, quoted in L. Pilgrim, “Elizabeth Peyton: An Interview with the Painter,” Parkett, Vol. 53, 1998, pp. 59-60).

Peyton’s unmatched ability to depict human life is a result of a careful understanding of her subjects, with their portraits evoking the contemporary zeitgeist of the time in which they were created. Liam and Noel, in particular, have proven to be significant, recurring subjects. A similarly scaled painting of the Oasis frontmen, also from 1997, is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

In the present work, Peyton depicts the Oasis duo from when they were small children, inspired by a family photograph from the 1970s. Young Liam looks cherubic in a light-blue hoodie that’s pulled up tightly around his face. Noel, the older brother, is pictured as a young adolescent, with his arm casually draped around his brother in a protective way. The palette itself evokes the sepia tones of a vintage photograph—a symphony of earthy, gold and amber hues that are accentuated with pops of blue. The palette works in tandem with Peyton’s brushstrokes to convey a sense of impermanence, of time passing.

When Peyton painted Liam + Noel in the 70s, Oasis was seemingly everywhere, their hit songs heard over and over on the radio and TV. Their second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? went platinum in the U.S. and propelled them from indie musicians to pop superstardom. Liam and Noel were the face of the band, outspoken and controversial in their comments and actions, which often landed them on the front pages of newspapers and magazines around the world. Peyton’s portraits of the band, however, are at odds with their wild image. She imparts love, fragility, and delicateness from a personal perspective. “There’s something in music that fascinates me,” she said. “Whatever was in Liam Gallagher’s voice, I wanted to capture” (E. Peyton, quoted in A. Purcell, “Manhattan Rhapsodies,” The Guardian, June 30, 2009).

In a style that blends elements of realism and abstraction whilst being infused with vivid colors, her work has been compared to that of Henri Matisse. Especially in the present work, the tender yet quirky portraits of children by Alice Neel easily come to mind, as do Warhol’s celebrity portraits and Alex Katz’spaintings of his wife, Ada. “Portraits can contain the person and the life around them in an explosive and layered way,” Peyton has said. “Love, and beauty and history, captured two-dimensionally. I realized this was all I wanted to see, and all I wanted to do” (E. Peyton, quoted in a talk at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, October 12, 2011;
accessible via: https://americanart.si.edu/videos/clarice-smith-distinguished-lecture-artist-elizabeth-peyton-154309)

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