Elizabeth Peyton draws and paints people who inspire her, including contemporary celebrities who died young, like Elvis and punk rock star Sid Vicious, and famous historical figures like Napoleon and Louis XIV. Working from images culled from the mass media and from her own photographs and videos of people she knows, she conveys slightly world-weary emotional content with an expressive visual language of drips, streaks, and broad, painterly brushstrokes rendered in colors so loaded as to suggest a cross between late-nineteenth-century Symbolism and late-1990s fashion advertising. Using translucent oil paints or watercolors, she imbues her waifish subjects with light that seems to radiate from within.
Peyton has been making prints since 1998, when Parkett magazine commissioned her to create a lithograph. That print, a portrait of writer and aesthete Oscar Wilde and his companion Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie, is related to the lithograph shown here. Deriving this image from the 1998 movie Wilde, Peyton rejects the cliché of Bosie as a selfish, childish paramour who corrupted his older, more accomplished partner, leading to the latter's downfall. Peyton, like Wilde, interested in beauty, renders Bosie sympathetically in pink and lavender colors symbolic of his elegant androgyny. Her painting style translates easily into the lithographic medium, as she can achieve watery-looking washes and tactile effects with tusche, an oily ink used in this technique.
Peyton's other activities in printmaking include a series of lithographs commissioned jointly by the Public Art Fund and a real-estate developer for display in two Manhattan hotels. She has also turned to etching, depicting mostly her circle of friends in delicate linear studies. Most recently she has embarked on a monotype project and made her first woodcut and an aquatint at Two Palms Press, bringing her sitters right into the printshop.