Jonathan Horwich, Modern British Art Specialist
Sir Peter Blake was born in Dartford, Kent on the 25th of June,1932. He was recently described by the artist Gavin Turk as ‘ A Legend’ an opinion which I and many other fans of Peter share.
He is mildly irritated by being best known as the artist who did the cover for the Beatles Sgt Pepper Album for which he was paid £200. If only he had been offered repeat fees he probably could have made a fortune!
By the age of 13 Peter had effectively left regular school to study Graphic Design at Gravesend Technical College. He was evidently a very talented artist and so was offered the choice of switching to Fine Art or sticking with Design, he switched to Fine Art, graduated from Gravesend and did his postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art where he stayed on afterwards to work as a tutor. This was all back in the early 1950s, when Rock and Pop music its culture was just emerging and his paintings from this time reflect these times and include images taken from famous paintings , posters advertising Music Hall acts, Wrestling matches, pop, rock and Jazz concerts. Peter’s first major exhibition was in 1961, in a group show with the Institute of Contemporary arts, he was part of a group of artists similar to the YBA’s of today exhibiting alongside David Hockney and Ron Kitaj. His first big break was winning the 1961 John Moore’s junior award for what Peter regards as one of his most important paintings, ‘ self portrait with badges’ .
He gained a much wider audience the following year when he appeared in Ken Russell’s film on Pop Art called ‘pop goes the easel ‘ broadcast on the BBC in 1962, fellow artists Pauline Boty , Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips also appear in the film. In 1963 Peter was taken on by the Robert Fraser Gallery which put him right at the centre of swinging London and its popular culture and the dye was cast. Below I show a wrestling theme picture called ‘Doktor K. Tortur’ which featured on the front cover of a mixed show at the Fraser gallery where it was bought by Erich Sommer who I met in the 90’s it was then consigned for my sale at Christie’s in 2002.
Peter still works every day and often revisits themes and ideas from earlier years, he works in many different mediums; collage , painting , drawing, printing, photography, in the past he often sawed doors in half or quarters and or stuck found or made objects into or onto painted pieces He keeps the images and objects he collects in his huge Chiswick studio to be used as source materials and ideas for making his Art, or ‘ an Art’ as he calls it. Images include film stars such as Kim Novak, Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe and are all ready and waiting to be cut out very neatly with his trademark tiny sewing scissors from photo books or magazines. In addition there is his lifelong collections of hats, elephants, ships, butterflies, found objects, toys to choose from.