Background: Sir Peter Thomas Blake, was born on 25 June 1932. He is an English pop artist, best known for the sleeve design for the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He lives in Chiswick, London.
Achievements: During the late 1950s, Blake became one of the best known British pop artists. His paintings from this time included imagery from advertisements, music hallentertainment, 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. In the ‘Young Contemporaries’ exhibition of 1961 in which he exhibited alongside David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, he was first identified with the emerging British Pop Art movement. Blake won the (1961) John Moores junior award for Self Portrait with Badges. He came to wider public attention when, along with Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips, he featured in Ken Russell’s Monitor film on pop art, Pop Goes the Easel, broadcast on BBC television in 1962. From 1963 Blake was represented by Robert Fraser placing 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 which remains an iconic piece 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 wholly painted, shows, among other things, a boy on the left of the composition holding Edouard Manet’sThe Balcony, badges and magazines. It was inspired by a painting by Honoré Sharrer depicting workers holding famous paintings. Blake has referred to the work of other artists many times. Another example, The First Real Target (1961) a standard archery target with the title written across the top is a play on paintings of targets by Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns.
Blake painted several album sleeves. He designed the sleeve for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with his 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 made sleeves for theBand 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 was Dury’s tutor at the Royal College of Art in the mid-60s). He 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. 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 using a young artist, Celia Wanless, as the model for Alice and in 1975 he was a founder of the Brotherhood of Ruralists. Blake moved back to London in 1979 and his work returned to earlier popular culture references.
In 2008, Blake painted a pig for the public art event King Bladud’s Pigs In Bath in the city of Bath.
A fan of Chelsea Football Club, Blake designed s collage to promote the team’s home kit in 2010. He also 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 Guildhallbuilding.
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” this time using desktop editing software rather than plywood cut-out images as used in the set created for the original album cover.
To mark his 80th birthday, an exhibition was held at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester to celebrate the artist’s long associations with music called [ Peter Blake and Pop Music] (23 June to 7 October 2012).