'It's almost a nineteenth century idea that what's on the inside appears on the outside. Balzac was into the curve of your nose or mouth expressing some kind of inner quality, that it could be read on your face'
(E. Peyton, quoted in Dear Painter, Paint me:Painting the Figure since late Picabia, exh. cat, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2002, p. 158).
'That's what it's all about-making art is making something live forever. Human beings especially - we can't hold on to them in any way. Painting and art is a way of holding onto things and making things go on through time'
(E. Peyton, quoted in J. Cocker, 'Elizabeth Peyton' in http:/www.interviewmagazine.com/art/elizabeth-peyton/, [accessed 25th May 2013]).
Painted in 1995, Elizabeth Peyton's endearing, jewel-like portrait of Burkhard Riemschneider depicts the editor and essayist whom Peyton met when she exhibited at Riemschneider's former gallery in Cologne. Peyton has reincarnated his winsome beauty and creative verve in her characteristically vivid palette. A familiar subject for the artist throughout the 1990s, a smaller portrait of the sitter, Burkhard Riemschneider, 1995, is in the Rubell Collection. With delicate, swift brushstrokes, Peyton has followed the strong angles of Riemschneider's face to create a portrait that is ravishing in both execution and emotion. The intimate quality of the close-up portrait rendered through the impassioned brushstrokes welcomes the viewer into the sitter's pensive space. Her sensual palette and use of stark, flat space creates a fleeting vulnerability that intrigues and seduces.
Peyton chooses her subjects with great care, only selecting people whom she admires or feels an affinity with. 'There is no separation for me between people I know through their music or photos and someone I know personally,' Peyton has said, 'The way I perceive them is very similar, in that there's no difference between certain qualities that I find inspiring in them' (E. Peyton, quoted in Elizabeth Peyton, exh. cat., Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg, 2001, p. 18). The familiarity with which she renders her portraits of public figures is highly compelling. Playing on contemporary society's insatiable curiosity about celebrity's personal lives, she captures a human fragility that a cool public persona often hides. This cast of characters from the art world fray are central to Peyton's portraits: 'One of the extraordinary things about Peyton's oeuvre is that it can serve as a chronicle of a particular period- at a certain moment in the history of culture in certain places among a few people who were enthusiastically making it. Sometimes they knew each other; sometimes they were just mutual fans. In retrospect, her paintings have become a kind of essence of a fifteen-year period in popular culture, something like a complicated perfume that retains the sensory grace notes of a hundred different exquisite elements, but on its own is distinct' (L. Hoptman, Live Forever Elizabeth Peyton, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2008, p. 225).
A leader in the field of contemporary figurative painting, Peyton combines the luxuriant brushwork of 19th century portraiture, the compositional dynamism of geometric abstract painting and the bold, emotive colour palette of saturated red and violet to impart a dramatic air to her sitter's contemplative gesture. Peyton was inspired by the studio portraiture of Nadar, Alfred Stieglitz and Robert Mapplethorpe, who all photographed their friends and intimates. As revealing as these photographs can be, they alone cannot measure up to her intimate work with paint and panel. 'That's what it's all about-making art is making something live forever. Human beings especially - we can't hold on to them in any way. Painting and art is a way of holding onto things and making things go on through time' (E. Peyton, quoted in J. Cocker, 'Elizabeth Peyton' in http:/www.interviewmagazine.com/art/elizabeth-peyton/, [accessed 25th May 2013]).