Elizabeth Peyton - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Giovanni Solari, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gallery Met, Elizabeth Peyton, February 25 – May 14, 2011

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I never paint anyone I do not admire” –Elizabeth Peyton

    In Elizabeth Peyton’s 1994 Ludwig II of Bavaria Pulled Out of the Starnberg After Drowning 13 June 1886, the 19th century royal is depicted in the moment following the discovery of his body. Along with other controversial figures throughout history, like Napoleon and Queen Elizabeth II, King Ludwig II was one of the artist’s preferred subjects in the early part of her career. His death was an enigma, the cause of which was never determined, and his historical reputation was continuously disputed. It is perhaps this variation in opinion that so drew Peyton to paint his portrait. In a 1996 interview about her choice of subject matter, she explained, “I think about how influential some people are in others’ lives… it doesn’t matter who they are or how famous they are but rather how beautiful is the way they live their lives and how inspiring they are for others.”

    In contrast to Peyton’s later portraits of 20th-century contemporaries such as Kurt Cobain, the present lot stands out in her oeuvre as a timeless illustration of a historical event. This example is visually linked to the rest of her early paintings in its subdued palette, which starkly differs from the vibrant palettes utilized in her portraits from a few years later. Here, Peyton employs an almost monochromatic palette of brown, blue and green oil washes, an aesthetic decision which captures a nostalgic depiction of death like an old photograph. Ludwig’s lifeless body is highlighted by his ghostly white face, almost entirely obliterated with the exception of gently indicated features. Without the work’s title, there exists no indication of time or place in the sea of muddy blue.

    The resulting image thus connects the mysteriousness of its subject matter of an untimely death to Peyton’s ability to capture the essence of her subjects. “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and others,” King Ludwig II is quoted to have said. In the depiction of this moment after his death, Peyton not only retains that notorious sense of enigma unique to the subject, but does so in her unique style of portraiture where past and present overlap in a single image.


Ludwig II of Bavaria Pulled Out of the Starnberg After Drowning 13 June 1886

oil on canvas
8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "Ludwig II of Bavaria Pulled Out of Lake Starnberg After Drowning 13 June 1886 Elizabeth Peyton 1994" on the stretcher.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $87,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 10 May 2016