Peyton-Jones studied painting at the Royal College of Art between 1975–78, but did not continue a career as a professional artist. Two of her works still hang in the Bank of England. After her education, she was briefly an art lecturer at the Edinburgh College of Art.
In 1991, Peyton-Jones became the director of the Serpentine Galleries. In 1998, she oversaw a major refurbishment of the gallery . In 2000 she inaugurated the annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a project that invites an architect who has previously never been commissioned to work in the United Kingdom to create a temporary structure at the Gallery. The first pavilion was designed by Dame Zaha Hadid. Subsequent pavilions have been designed by Ai Weiwei, Jean Nouvel, and Oscar Niemeyer.
In 2013 she oversaw the expansion of the Serpentine into a second building, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery is located in a Grade-II listed building, which was originally used for gunpowder storage, and has an extension by the architect Zaha Hadid. In October 2015, Peyton-Jones announced her departure from her role at the Serpentine Galleries in summer 2016. .
Peyton-Jones was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2003 Birthday Honours for services to art and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to the arts.
- Christopher Frayling (ed.) Art and design: 100 years at the Royal College of Art Richard Dennis Publications, 2006.
- Duerden, Chris. "How we met: Julia Peyton-Jones and Zaha Hadid", The Independent, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Frayling, Christopher (ed.) "Art and design: 100 years at the Royal College of Art", Richard Dennis Publications, 2006.
- "Julia Peyton-Jones: I feel impoverished. We are adrift from nature", The Independent, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Spence, Rachel. "Interview: Julia Peyton-Jones", The Financial Times, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "Julia Peyton-Jones", Royal Society of the Arts, Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "Serpentine Pavilion to be 'space pod'", BBC.co.uk; retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Stathaki, Ellie. "The Serpentine Sackler Gallery launches with a new extension by Zaha Hadid", Wallpaper Magazine; retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "Serpentine co-director Julia Peyton-Jones to step down after 25 years", ‘’The Guardian; retrieved 2 November 2015.
- Cork, Richard."Pavilion in the Park", The New Statesman; retrieved 12 May 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 11 June 2016.