Peter Blake (1932-present)
Sir Peter Thomas Blake was born 25 June 1932 in Dartford, Kent. He attended both the Gravesend Technical College School of Art and the Royal College of Art. During the late 1950s, Blake’s dialogue with pop art placed his career on a rising trajectory. He quickly became one of the best known British pop artists, his paintings incorporating advertisements, music hall entertainment, wrestlers and other sports players, often in collaged arrangement.
Blake was included in several group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts during the 1950s and had his first solo exhibition in 1960. In the Young Contemporaries exhibition in 1961, Blake won the John Moores Junior award for Self Portrait with Badges. He attracted wider public attention when he was featured in Ken Russell’s Monitor film Pop Goes the Easel, documenting the British Pop Art movement on BBC from 1962. From 1963, Blake was represented by Robert Fraser, who played a central role in establishing dialogues for Blake with leading singers, artists and sports players..
Blake is perhaps best known for his design of the record sleeve for The Beatle’s Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Blake co-designed the sleeve with Jann Haworth, the American Artist he was married to from 1962-79. The sleeve has become an iconic work of pop art, imitated widely and seminal to Blake’s career progression designing sleeves for records; Blake subsequently designed the 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), and 38 years later, the Who’s Who (2019).
In 1990 and 1991, Blake painted the art for Eric Clapton’s 1991 album 24 Nights. Later that year, Blake created artist’s editions of his sleeves for the opening of the Pallant House Gallery; these works recalling the images of his earlier work and paying homage to the key moments in pop culture’s history, and to his own hand in documenting them.
A similar exhibition entitled Peter Blake and Pop Music was later held, again, at the Pallant House Gallery, to celebrate the way Blake’s career had been so intertwined with the musicians he had represented. The exhibition begun in the Spring of 2012 and continued into October. In 2014, his illustrations were exhibited at the National Museum Cardiff, and in 2016, Blake designed the artwork for Eric Clapton’s studio album I Still Do, putting his work into popular circulation as album art once more.
Blake has been honoured for his work throughout his career; becoming a Royal Academician in 1981, appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1983 Birthday Honours and Knight Bachelor in the 2002 Birthday Honours for his services to art. Blake was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Seminal retrospectives of Blake’s artwork include exhibitions at the Tate London and the Tate Liverpool. In February of 2005, the Sir Peter Blake Music Art Gallery was opened by the artist. This is a permanent exhibition of 20 of his album sleeve art works. Among those who collect his work are the Tate, the National Museum of Wales and the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa).