A Guide to the Work of Peter Blake

Widely considered the “Godfather of British Pop Art"


“I wanted to make an art that was the visual equivalent of pop music” – Peter Blake

Widely considered the “Godfather of British Pop Art”, Peter Blake is perhaps most well-known for co-designing the iconic cover of The Beatles 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. He creates paintings, sculpture, collages and prints which blend modern contemporary with nostalgia to produce perceptive and audacious works. His choice of imagery often conveys a sense of cheeky and nonsensical, dark yet enchanting humour, which is quintessentially British. With works held in various international museums, he is credited as a key influence on Contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.


Sir Peter Blake (b.1932), 'Babe Rainbow'

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Born in Dartford, Kent on the 25th of June 1932, Blake studied graphic design and painting at Gravesend Technical College School of Art and the Royal College of Art. His “On the Balcony” (1955 – 1957) remains a significant iconic piece of British Pop Art, giving the impression of being a collage, the work is entirely painted. From the late 50s he created collages of photographs, cigarette packets and matchboxes which would bring about a new “found imagery” approach to the visual arts.

In 1961 Blake was included in the "Young Contemporaries" exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, alongside David Hockney and R. B. Kitaj. That same year he received the avant-garde painting award, John Moores Junior prize, for “Self Portrait with Badges” (1961), another of his iconic works from this early period.

“Pop Goes the Easel”, a documentary about Young British Artists pioneering the Pop Art movement, was broadcast on BBC’s Monitor arts' television in 1962; it featured Peter Blake alongside Derek Boshier, Pauline Boty and Peter Phillips, consequently ushering these artists in the limelight.


Peter Blake (b.1932) British, 'Paul Weller's Stanley Road'

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From 1963 Blake was represented by Robert Fraser of the Robert Fraser Gallery. It was during this period that The Beatles commissioned Fraser to get one of his artists to design the cover of their album. Fraser appointed Blake and paid him a flat fee of £200, with no contract, copyright, or royalties. Considering the commercial success of the album, it’s hardly surprising that Blake has publicly made light of his contempt over the years.

 “One of the genius works of the 20th century.” - Damien Hirst on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover.

In 1968, Blake was commissioned by Dodo Editions to create a screen-print on tin, Blake made Babe Rainbow. The following year the Robert Fraser gallery closed and Blake held his first exhibition with Waddington Galleries. The owner, Leslie Waddington, would become a lifelong supporter and representative. That same year he moved to the West Country, where his work shifted focus to English Folklore and Shakespeare characters. During the early 1970s Blake created a set of watercolour paintings to illustrate Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and in 1975 he was a founding member of The Brotherhood of Ruralists. He was a frequent visiting lecturer at Bristol College of Art until he returned to London in 1979.

Blake became a Royal Academician in 1981 and was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1983. In 1997, at the age of 65, Blake “emotionally retired” from painting. According to him he continues to work but is no longer interested in the art world’s opinion of his art. He was knighted in 2002 for his invaluable contribution to the Contemporary Visual Arts and continues to live and work in London.


Sir Peter Blake (b. 1932), "Olongapo Rose"


Retrospectives of Blake’s works were held at the Tate in 1983 and Tate Liverpool in 2008, and the Sir Peter Blake Music Art Gallery in the University of Leeds was opened by the artist is 2005.

Blake has made sleeves for the Band 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). He designed the sleeves for Pentangle's Sweet Child, The Who's Face Dances (1981), Oasis’s “Stop the Clocks” (2006) and The Who's WHO (2019). He also painted the artwork for Eric Clapton’s album “24 Nights” (1991).

The works of Sir Peter Blake are vibrantly colourful and distinctly graphic, drawing extensively on elements from international popular cultures, his aesthetic is instantly recognisable and continues to inspire contemporary artists today.


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