Angela Merkel’s Humanity, Captured in an Elizabeth Peyton Oil


Ms. Peyton, born in 1965, began her career exhibiting work in unconventional settings like the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. At a time when figurative painting was deeply unpopular and portraiture was generally scorned, she became famous for her stylized portraits of pop-culture icons and historical figures.

For Vogue, Ms. Peyton drew from a vast collection of photographic images to contemplate the spirit of Ms. Merkel, a woman who had captured Ms. Peyton’s imagination for her strength and, at the same time, what she viewed as her tenderness.

“I just looked at a million photos, the photos of her from the last 30 years,” Ms. Peyton said. “I noticed how much her face changed in the last two years, especially in the last two months — there was such pain visible. I was really conscious of that.”

Still, she wanted her painting to be more iconic than literal, she said. She captured the chancellor’s intensely clear blue eyes and exaggerated the tilt of her mouth, giving her a bemused look.

“Her face is so determined and tender, there is this hopefulness that leadership could lead you to a better place,” Ms. Peyton said.

She added: “I was feeling one of her biggest strengths is her humanity; there is just nothing like that in my world that I see right now. It’s like a superpower.”

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