Artist Focus: Sir Peter Blake
Peter Blake was born in 1932 in Dartford, Kent. His early interests included many kinds of popular entertainments such as cinema, the circus, wrestling matches, jazz and popular music, all of which found their way naturally into his art. He attended the Junior Art School of Gravesend Technical College, where he received a tradition and thorough art education.
In 1950, Blake was advised against becoming a painter and was guided towards graphic design. It was thought it would offer him a more stable livelihood. He applied to study graphics at the Royal College of Art and included a recent painting of his sister Shirley Blake in his portfolio. On the strength of that work, he was actually admitted to the Painting school.
Peter Blake and The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
Blake is often described as the godfather of Pop art and in 1961 he featured in Ken Russell’s BBC film Pop Goes the Easel. Many people know him for his famous design for the cover of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band album from 1967. Dylan Thomas in fact makes an appearance on the Sergeant Pepper album cover, in amongst the magical crowd, made up of icons and heroes. Thomas was included at John Lennon’s suggestion.
Blake moved from London to Wellow in Somerset in 1969. In 1975, he became a founding member of a group of artists who called themselves the Brotherhood of Ruralists (with Jann Haworth, Ann and Graham Arnold, David Inshaw and Annie and Graham Ovenden). The change in lifestyle prompted a significant shift in his work. At this time Blake produced his acclaimed illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s famous narrative Through the Looking Glass.
He found a magic in Alice and especially liked its dream like quality and its magical realism.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Blake continued to pursue a range of commercial and fine art projects, simultaneously producing paintings watercolours, collages and constructions. In 1994 he accepted the invitation to become the Third Associate Artist at the National Gallery and made new work inspired by its rich, historical collection.
Blake’s career has spanned over six decades. His work is extraordinarily diverse and today he is still one of the most influential and original artists working in Britain.