Elizabeth Peyton


pastel on black paper
12 x 9 inches

A crucial figure in the resurgence of figurative painting in the 1990s, Elizabeth Peyton is celebrated for her reflective portraits that stand as conduits for her emotional connection to the subjects, whether they are close friends or famous figures. Here, Peyton eternalizes the two leads in the beautiful but heartbreaking opera, Werther, loosely based on Goethe’s 18th century novel. For this pastel drawing on black paper, Peyton outlines the distinctive silhouettes of the lead actors — Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch, from the Metropolitan Opera’s 2014 staging — emphasizing the emotionally charged moment before their first and last kiss with electric blues and shocks of red. Peyton sensitively captures the tragic romanticism of the story, as the two black profiles hover inches from each other, their intense longing for one another made palpable. Since taking part in the 2009 Gallery Met exhibition of works made in reaction to Puccini’s Tosca, Peyton has portrayed the passions of some of the opera house’s most famous performances, including Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Wagner’s Die Walküre and Tristan und Isolde. She has exhibited her paintings around the world, and her work can be found in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunstmuseum Basel; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Whitney Museum, New York; SFMoMA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and MoMA, New York, among others. Peyton was honored as the 2007 TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art featured artist.