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Elizabeth Peyton at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

The first exhibition in Ireland by Elizabeth Peyton, one of the most outstanding American artists of her generation, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 1 April 2009. Elizabeth Peyton: Reading and Writing presents some 20 works, comprising carefully selected portraits of youthful, romantic individuals and still lifes depicting table tops covered with books, bouquets of flowers and collectables, chosen to work in harmony with the domestic setting of the East Ground Galleries at IMMA. Presenting paintings and works on paper, the exhibition illustrates an intensely personal body of work, which confidently places beauty at the centre of contemporary art. The exhibition has a particular focus on poetry and literature, interiors and photographs, desire and love.

Peyton first came to prominence in the early 1990s as one of the few young artists exploring figurative painting. Although her paintings owe a clear debt to 19th-century masters, such as Edouard Manet and John Singer Sargent, Peyton’s work also demonstrates an intimate understanding of 20th-century artists, such as David Hockney, Alex Katz and Andy Warhol. Despite these influences, Peyton has developed a highly personal body of work, deeply rooted in her surroundings and her readings. Her dazzling palette of jewel-like colours and her refined graphic sensibility are combined in enormously seductive works, both in content and form. Over the years her work has evolved into an increasingly fascinating chronicle of contemporary American life and culture.

The portraits and still lifes in the exhibition encapsulate many of Peyton’s favourite sources of inspiration, which have included William Shakespeare, 19th-century Realist or Romantic authors, Nouvelle Vague filmmakers of the 1960s and present day singer-poets, such as Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. An early work, Oscar and Bosie, 1998, depicts Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. Here Peyton characteristically brings together the subculture of a past age with contemporary popular culture, as the faces of Wilde and Bosie are interchangeable with those of Stephen Fry and Jude Law, who portrayed Wilde and Douglas in the 1997 film Wilde. The drawing Patti and Bob (After Judy Linn with Dylan mask 1971), 2006, with its nostalgic 1970s feel, is based on a photograph by Judy Linn showing Patti Smith holding a photograph of Bob Dylan in front of her face. The Age of Innocence, 2007, again combines the historic and the contemporary in its representation of Countess Olenska and Newland Archer, the illicit lovers in Edith Wharton’s novel, who bear a striking resemblance to the stars of Martin Scorsese’s 1993 film version – Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Born in 1965 in Danbury, Connecticut, USA, Elizabeth Peyton lives and works in New York. A major retrospective of her work, Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton, was shown at the New Museum in New York in 2008/09 and tours to Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, and Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht. Solo exhibitions include Aldrich Museum of Art, Connecticut, 2008; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York, 2008; neugerriemschneider, Berlin, 2006; Sadie Coles HQ, London, 2005, and the Royal Academy, London, 2002. Group exhibitions include The Painting of Modern Life, Hayward Gallery, London, 2007; Getting Emotional, ICA Boston, 2005; Contemporary Painting, curated by artist Alex Katz for Colby College Museum of Art, Maine, and the Whitney Biennial, New York, 2004, and Dear Painter, Paint for me, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2002.

The exhibition is curated by Rachael Thomas, Senior Curator: Head of Exhibitions, IMMA.

A fully-illustrated artist’s book accompanies the exhibition, designed by Elizabeth Peyton herself and produced by Charta Books Ltd, with an afterword by Enrique Juncosa, Director, IMMA, and an essay by Rachael Thomas, titled In Search of Lost Time. This publication also includes extracts from classic texts by authors such as Honoré de Balzac, the Goncourt Brothers and Gustave Flaubert, alongside an interview with filmmaker François Truffaut. Peyton’s selection ties in closely with the works presented in the exhibition and reveals some of her key inspirations.

Artist’s Talk
On Tuesday 31 March at 5.00pm Rachael Thomas invites Elizabeth Peyton to discuss the recurring themes portrayed in her practice, such as love, desire, loss, and how these are interlinked with the world of literature. The talk will take place in the Lecture Room. Admission is free, but booking is essential.

Limited Edition
Elizabeth Peyton has created a new print with Two Palms Press for sale by the Museum on the occasion of the exhibition: Flowers and Diaghilev, 2009, etching in black ink on magnani pescia paper, 30.4 x 22.8 cm. Cost €1,500 unframed.

The exhibition is presented with the support of The Merrion Hotel, Dublin and is assisted by RTÉ Supporting the Arts. 

Elizabeth Peyton: Reading and Writing continues until 21 June 2009. Admission is free.

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday                  10.00am – 5.30pm
except Wednesday                   10.30am – 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays    12noon – 5.30pm
Monday                                    Closed

For further information and images please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900, Email: [email protected] 

26 March 2009

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.