Sir Peter Blake CBE RDI RA (born 1932) was one of the key members of the British Pop Art movement in the 1950s and 60s. His celebrated oeuvre includes collages infused with images from popular culture, often merging ads, comic books and mundane mass-produced cultural phenomena, as well as his distinctly fantastical paintings. With a career spanning several decades, Sir Peter’s body of work underwent dramatic conceptual changes, shifting from Pop Art to Figurative and then, following a period of disillusionment with London life in the 70s, Ruralism.
The Education of Sir Peter Blake
After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1956, Sir Peter received a Leverhulme scholarship which enabled him to travel through Europe for an extended period of time. During this time, his love affair with the ephemera of popular culture and zeitgeist icons was ignited. His later works moved away from celebrity culture and instead sought to ensure the continuation of classical English painting. ‘The Brotherhood of Ruralists’ took inspiration from Stanley Spencer, Thomas Hardy, the British countryside and the Pre-Raphaelites, as seen in ‘Well, this is grand!’ said Alice (1970).
Before joining the Brotherhood, Sir Peter was involved in a number of collaborative exhibitions alongside David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj. Sir Peter won the John Moores Junior Award for Self Portrait with Badges in 1961, a picture which now features in Blake's retrospective exhibition at Tate Liverpool. This iconic self-portrait of a young and unassuming Blake, laden with American insignia as an ardent pledge of cultural allegiance, catapulted him to artistic stardom for its metaphoric mastery.
An Ever-evolving Style
The octogenarian is still commissioned to create iconic celebrity portraits and art from his studio in West London, such as what he did for The Beatles and The Who. His collections are on display at top galleries such as the Tate, The National Gallery, Paul Stolper and The Harley Gallery.
If you’d like to learn more about The Godfather of Pop Art’s deep love for circus, side-shows and the ephemera of popular culture, read our article on his series Side Show (2014-15).