“The Godfather of British pop art” Peter Blake was born in Dartford, Kent in 1932 and is one of the most celebrated and revered living artists.
Peter Blake studied at Gravesend School of Art before being accepted into the Royal College of Art, London where he studied alongside many of the key British Pop artists, including David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Joe Tilson, Allen Jones, Peter Phillips and Derek Boshier. After completing his National Service, he received the Leverhulme Research Award to study popular art whilst travelling throughout Europe.
A celebrated painter and printmaker, Blake’s fascination with popular mass culture and entertainment is at the core of his work. He has appropriated icons and advertising imagery to create sincere homages to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Elvis Presley and professional wrestlers. In other work he composes assemblages of found objects with humorous allusions to the history of art and childhood fantasies. His images are iconic not only within art history but as a mirror to the social norms of modern Britain.
“There is a Victorian element about Blake’s work, filled as it is with memorabilia, rich in association and scrap-book mementoes, and of all the English Pop-ists he is certainly the most unabashedly romantic. The future may find him the most evocative and nostalgic of all his contemporaries.”
Mario Amaya, POP as ART – A Survey of the New Super Realism, 1965
Blake’s first one-man exhibition was held in 1962 at the Portal Gallery and solo shows followed at the Robert Fraser Gallery (1965) and at Leslie Waddington Prints (1969). Since the early 1970s his work has been exhibited regularly in one-man shows throughout the world, including the Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo (1988) and the Govinda Gallery, Washington D.C. (1992).
His first retrospective exhibition was held as early as 1969 at the City Art Gallery, Bristol. Subsequent retrospectives were held in 1973 at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, touring to Hamburg and Brussels and at the Tate Gallery in 1983. In 1994 he was made the Third Associate Artist of the National Gallery, London. Peter Blake was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1981, and was knighted in 2002. In 2007 the Tate Liverpool held a major retrospective of Peter Blake’s work which toured to the Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao in 2008.
In 1967 Blake designed the artwork for The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in turn advancing the record sleeve to an art form. The artist has since created some of the most iconic and enduring album covers of all time for artists including The Who, Paul Weller, Ian Dury, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Oasis, Band Aid and Live Aid.
“My generation, from Damien, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk to Mat Collishaw, we all adore Peter and we all adore his work. Right from the beginning he made an immediate connection with all of us. He fully embraced our generation of artists and now a younger generation of artists.”
Tracey Emin in conversation with Peter Blake, Tate Liverpool, 2007
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Interview: The Guardian (2022)
The groundbreaking artist Peter Blake talks about what inspires him – from corn dollies to music halls