Peter Blake RA is an English artist often referred to as the Godfather of British Pop Art, best known for his limited edition prints and the design of the sleeve for The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Born in Dartford, Kent, Peter Blake studied at Gravesend School of Art before being accepted into the prestigious Royal College of Art in London. Peter Blake became a Royal Academician in 1981, a CBE in 1983 and in 2002 Peter Blake received a knighthood for his services to art. Retrospectives of Blake’s work were held at the Tate in 1983 and Tate Liverpool in 2008#
He graduated in 1956, received a Leverhulme Research Award to study popular art, and travelled extensively, drawing inspiration as he roamed. Sir Peter Blake’s fondness for popular culture can be clearly seen in much of his eclectic collages and silk screen prints, which include images of icons including Marilyn Monroe and Mona Lisa.
Since his emergence in the early 1960s as a key member of the burgeoning Pop Art movement, Peter Blake has been considered one of the best-known British artists of his generation. His 1961 Self Portrait with Badges, where he stands in his denim jeans and jacket, wearing Converse trainers and holding an Elvis album, is one of the iconic images of the time and is now in the Tate collection, but Peter Blake’s reputation from the outset, reflecting his broad art education, was based on working across media. He has produced collage, sculpture, engraving and printmaking, as well as commercial art in the form of graphics and, notably, album covers.
Peter Blake is never particularly critical of the cultural iconography he plays with, just amused. Perhaps his best known work is the album cover for The Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. This strange, colourful huddle of people exemplifies Blake’s style: among Beatles dressed in psychedelic uniform are Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and a child wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt. Of all the various forms of Pop Art, Blake’s is the most affirmative, his humour the most sincere.
Peter Blake creates collages that are undoubtedly odd but never jarring or disruptive. His taste for cut-and-paste techniques does not, like most Dada art, culminate in black humour; Blake is nothing if not light. He opposes nothing and negates nothing but instead basks in the icons of popular culture. His prints indulge the utmost veneration for Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, The Beatles and Elvis. If Warhol’s aim was to render culturally salient images meaningless, Peter Blake puts his heroes on a pedestal, paying homage to them with neither irony nor ambiguity.