Blake’s work defines the era of the 60’s with it’s eclectic imagery and bright colors. An unabashed amalgamation of paint, collage, photography, typography and anything that fit. The Sgt. Pepper album here is perhaps the best album art ever defining the late 60’s entry into the pychedelic age to come.
Peter Blake, CBE, RDI, RA (born 25 June 1932) is an English pop artist, best known for his design of the sleeve for the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He lives in Chiswick, London, UK.
During the late 1950s, Blake became one of the best known British pop artists. His paintings from this time included imagery from advertisements, music hall entertainment, and wrestlers, often including collaged elements. Blake was included in group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and had his first solo exhibition in 1960. It was with the ‘Young Contemporaries’ exhibition of 1961 where he was exhibited alongside David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj that he was first identified with the emerging British Pop Art movement. Blake won the (1961) John Moores junior award for his work Self Portrait with Badges. He first came to wider public attention when, along with Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips, he was featured in Ken Russell’s Monitor film on pop art, Pop Goes the Easel, which was broadcast on BBC television in 1962. From 1963 Blake was represented by Robert Fraser which placed him at the centre of swinging London and brought him into contact with leading figures of popular culture.
On the Balcony (1955–57) is a significant early work and still stands as one of the iconic pieces of British Pop Art, showing Blake’s interest in combining images from pop culture with fine art. The work, which appears to be a collage but is in fact wholly painted, shows, among other things, a boy on the left of the composition holding Edouard Manet’s The Balcony, badges and magazines. It was inspired by a painting by Honoré Sharrer depicting workers holding famous paintings.
Blake has directly referred to the work of other artists many times. Another example is The First Real Target (1961) is a standard archery target with the title written across the top as a play on the paintings of targets by Kenneth Nolandand Jasper Johns.
Blake also painted several notable album sleeves. He designed the sleeve for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with his then-wife Jann Haworth, the American-born artist whom he married in 1963 and divorced in 1979. The Sgt. Pepper’s sleeve has become an iconic work of pop art, much imitated and Blake’s best known work. Producing the collage necessitated the construction of a set with cut-out photographs and objects, such as flowers, centred around a drum (sold in auction in 2008) with the title of the album. Blake has subsequently complained about the one-off fee he received for the design (£200 ), with no subsequent royalties. Blake also made sleeves for the Band Aid single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984), Paul Weller’s Stanley Road (1995) and the Ian Dury tribute album Brand New Boots and Panties (2001; Blake had been Dury’s tutor at the Royal College of Art in the mid-60s). He also designed the sleeves for Pentangle’s Sweet Child and The Who’s Face Dances (1981), which features portraits of the band by a number of artists.
In 1969, Blake left London to live near Bath. Blake’s work changed direction featuring scenes based on English Folklore and characters from Shakespeare. In the early 1970s, he made a set of watercolours to illustrate Lewis Carroll’sThrough the Looking-Glass including the use of a young artist, Celia Wanless, as a model for Alice and in 1975 was a founder of the Brotherhood of Ruralists. Blake moved back to London in 1979 and his work returned to the earlier popular culture references.
In January 1992, Blake appeared on BBC2’s acclaimed “Arena” Masters Of The Canvas documentary and painted the portrait of the wrestler Kendo Nagasaki.
In June 2006, as The Who returned to play Leeds University 36 years after recording their seminal Live at Leeds album there in 1970, Blake unveiled a new Live at Leeds 2 artwork to commemorate the event. Both the artist and The Who’s Pete Townshend signed an edition which will join the gallery’s collection.
More recently, Blake has created Artist’s editions for the opening of the Pallant House Gallery which houses collections that include some of his most famous paintings. These works are homages to his earlier work on the Stanley Roadalbum cover and Babe Rainbow prints. He also designed a series of deck chairs.
In 2006, Blake designed the cover for Oasis greatest hits album Stop the Clocks. According to Blake, he chose all of the objects in the picture at random, but the sleeves of Sgt. Pepper’s and Definitely Maybe were in the back of his mind. He claims, “It’s using the mystery of Definitely Maybe and running away with it.” Familiar cultural icons which can be seen on the cover include Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Charles Manson (replacing the original image of Marilyn Monroe, which could not be used for legal reasons) and the seven dwarfs from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
Blake also revealed that the final cover wasn’t the original one. That design featured an image of the shop ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London.
Blake created an updated version of Sgt. Pepper – with famous figures from Liverpool history – as part of the successful campaign for Liverpool to become European Capital of Culture 2008, and is creating a series of prints to celebrate Liverpool’s status.
In 2008, Blake painted a pig for the public art event King Bladud’s Pigs In Bath in the English city of Bath.
A fan of Chelsea Football Club, Blake designed an exclusive collage to promote the team’s new home kit in 2010.
He also recently designed a shopping bag for the Lucky Brand Jeans company for the holiday season.
As part of ‘The Big Egg Hunt’ February 2012 Sir Peter Blake designed an egg on behalf of Dorchester Collection.
Blake created the carpet which runs through the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom’s Middlesex Guildhall building.
As he approached his 80th birthday, he undertook a project to recreate the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover with images of friends and “great people” although this time using desktop editing software rather than the plywood cut-out images used in the set created for the original album cover.
To mark Peter Blake’s 80th birthday, an exhibition will be held at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester celebrating the artist’s long associations with music called [ Peter Blake and Pop Music] (23 June to 7 October 2012)