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Peter Blake (b. 1932)

A British pop artist, Peter Blake has become one of England's more famous contemporary, avant-garde artists.  In 1981, he was elected Academician of the Royal Academy, and in 2002 was knighted for his accomplishments.  Retrospective exhibitions have been held at the Tate Museum in 1983, and at Tate Liverpool in 2009.  His work is on permanent exhibition at the Sir Peter Blake Music Art Gallery at the School of Music at Leeds University.

Peter Blake gained fame in the 1950s with images from advertising, music entertainments, and wrestlers, often using both painting and collage.  In 1960, he had his first solo exhibition.  In 1961, he exhibited with the Young Contemporaries, a group that included David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, and this show was a landmark for his career in that it linked him to Britain's Pop Art  movement.  In the 1962 BBC broadcast film, Pop Goes the Easel, Blake was placed "at the centre of swinging London and brought into contact with leading figures of the popular culture."

Characteristic of Blake's early work, done in the 1950s, is his combination of pop culture images with fine art, and pieces that although painting, appear to be collage and assemblage.  Examples are The Balcony, 1955 to 1957, and The First Real Target, 1961, an archery target, which is based on target image works by Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns.


Album sleeves were also part of Blake's creativity.  With his then wife, Jann Haworth, he designed a sleeve for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club, the eighth studio album by The Beatles in 1967.  This work became an icon of pop art and is said to be the best-known work by Blake.

Living during his early career in London, Peter Blake moved to Bath in 1969 and lived there until 1979, when he moved back to London.  Much of his work done in Bath has English folklore and Shakespeare references including watercolor illustrations of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. 

Returning to London, he resumed his earlier activities of creating album covers and his own non-commissioned creations of paintings, assemblages and prints.  Other work includes a shopping bag design for Lucky Brand Jeans, and a carpet installed in the Supreme Court of Middlesex Guildhall.

In June 2006, Blake did album sleeves for The Who, a group performing at Leeds University, to commemorate the group's return to Leeds 36 years after recording their seminal Live at Leeds album.  He has also done artist's editions of his earlier work, holding shows at the Palliant House Gallery.