Sir Peter Blake

Sir Peter Blake is a contemporary British artist known for his association with the Pop Art movement. He was born in Kent, on 25 June 1932 and educated at the Gravesend Technical College school of art, and then the Royal College of Art.

During the late 1950s, Blake became one of the best known British pop artists. His paintings from this time included imagery from advertisements, entertainment and wrestling. On the Balcony (1955–1957) is a significant early work which remains an iconic piece of British Pop Art. It cleverly shows Blake’s interest in combining images from pop culture with fine art. The work, which appears to be a collage, is wholly painted. It shows a boy holding Edouard Manet’s The Balcony, badges and magazines. In the “Young Contemporaries” exhibition of 1961, he was first identified as a major player in the Pop Art movement. He came to notoriety when he featured in Ken Russell’s Monitor film on pop art, Pop Goes the Easel, broadcast in 1962.

Blake painted several album sleeves but he is most well-know for designing the sleeve for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Sgt. Pepper’s sleeve has become an iconic work of pop art, much imitated. Producing the collage required construction of a set with cut-out photographs and objects, centred on a drum with the title of the album. Blake has also made sleeves for the Band Aid single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, Paul Weller’s, “Stanley Road” (1995). As well the Ian Dury tribute album Brand New Boots and Panties (2001) and most recently, The Who’s WHO (2019).

In 1969, Blake left London to live near Bath. His work changed direction to feature scenes based on English Folklore and characters from Shakespeare. In the early 1970s, he made a set of watercolour paintings to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. He was also the founder of the Brotherhood of Ruralists. This was a British art group formed in 1975 to paint nature. However, Blake moved back to London in 1979 and his work returned to earlier popular culture references.

For his 80th birthday, Sir Peter Blake undertook a project to recreate the Sgt. Pepper album cover with images of British Cultural Icons of his life. He stated: “I had a very long list of people who I wanted to go in but couldn’t fit everyone in – I think that shows how strong British culture and its legacy of the last six decades is.” The new version was for a special birthday celebration of Blake’s life which proved he was an iconic figure of British art and the Pop Art movement. Blake still lives and works in London.

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