Lot 8
  • 8

Elizabeth Peyton

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Elizabeth Peyton
  • Liam + Noel (Gallagher)
  • signed, titled and dated 1996 on the reverse

  • oil on panel
  • 66.5 by 56.5cm.
  • 26 1/4 by 22 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1996.


GBE (Modern), New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Liam & Noel is one of the largest portraits Elizabeth Peyton painted of the front men of the band Oasis between 1996 and 1997, another of which is today housed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco. At the time, Oasis was topping the charts following the success of their second album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? which entered the charts at number one in the UK and number four in the US, where it stayed for ten consecutive weeks. Their music was epoch-defining, cresting a wave of Brit Pop which was conquering the international music scene at the same time that Damien Hirst and the YBAs were the rising stars of the British Art scene. The Gallagher brothers were the public faces of the band, unlovable rogues from Manchester whose photos and torrid bust-ups populated the pages of both the tabloid and musical press.  

For her portrait, Peyton starts with a photographic source image culled from a glossy music magazine, the sort of promotional shot typically found in the NME or Rolling Stone Magazine. Dressed in high-street shirt and tracksuit – the pairs' cool antidote to the affected attire typical of British indie bands at the time – Liam and Noel pose for the lens.  However, it is in her departure from the source image that Peyton's painterly practice begins. In contrast to Warhol's silkscreened portraits of movie stars and musical legends, which replicated the impersonal mechanics of the printing press in such away that the viewer becomes desensitized to his subject, as in Elvis I and II, here Peyton's delicate, deceptively spontaneous brushstroke heightens the emotional intensity, bringing the viewer into communion with his subjects. Despite the carefully stage-managed pose of the original photograph, through Peyton's votive treatment we feel as though we are looking at a candid snapshot from the Gallagher family's photo album. Her depiction bypasses the aura surrounding their fame and public life, tapping into their personal histories in a portrait which is devoid of the voyeurism and the intrusive gaze of the media. The brothers' strong familial likenesses are emphasised to the point that they appear like twins; their trademark haircuts, thick eyebrows and aquiline noses almost interchangeable. For Peyton, they are first and foremost brothers; their rock stardom is secondary. Elfin and fresh faced, the tender gesture of Liam's chin resting on his older brother's shoulder adds an emotional charge that sets this apart from their famously antagonistic public personas.

By taking her source photograph from the shared repertoire of our image-saturated culture, Peyton lends a certain familiarity and intimacy to the work which the viewer can share. Even if we do not recognise the specific source, we feel as though we do, as though this moment somehow shares in our own nostalgic personal histories, as though we are looking back at our own family photo album. As the artist explains: "There is no separation for me between people I know through their music or photos and someone I know personally. The way I perceive them is very similar, in that there's no difference between certain qualities that I find inspiring in them." (Elizabeth Peyton cited in Rizzoli, Ed., Elizabeth Peyton, New York 2005, p. 16). Liam and Noel Gallagher join her highly personal pantheon of subjects which include Kurt Cobain, Jarvis Cocker, Prince Harry, friends from her bohemian art circle as well as literary and historical figures including Balzac and Ludwig II. Painting without hegemony both her close friends and figures in the public eye, there is a democratisation at play in Peyton's technique that recalls Warhol's program to rescue portraiture from its elitist past. Blurring the social boundaries, Peyton's oeuvre presents a parallel aristocracy equally worthy of depiction, which responds in an intensely personal way to individuals whose lives and actions she deems to be heroic.

There is a duality at play in this painting which generates great pathos. Ostensibly an image of brotherly love, even by the time it was painted the cracks in the Gallagher siblings' personal and professional relationship were clear for all to see. Despite (or because of) their musical success, their public spats (culminating in Liam's recent libel case against Noel) were as well documented as their undoubted musical genius. Despite Peyton's hint at familial bonds in this painting, there was no such happy family life for the Gallaghers growing up in Manchester with an abusive and absent father and no love lost between the brothers as adults. This is the great personal tragedy of Oasis's huge public success, which Peyton very carefully but deliberately exposes in this painting.