Sir Peter Blake (b. 1932, Dartford, Kent) is a British painter, sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker. Often referred to as the ‘Father of British Pop Art’, his practice incorporates a range of styles, including folk art and collage. In 1946, Blake enrolled at Gravesend School of Art to study graphic design and began to collect popular art and ephemera. After National Service, in 1953 Blake joined the Royal College of Art, London and studied alongside Robyn Denny, Leon Kosoff, Richard Smith and Joe Tilson. There, elements of popular culture began to enter Blake’s painting, predating American Pop art. Having seen the work of Kurt Schwitters he started to work in collage. After graduating in 1956, Blake won the Leverhulme Research Award and spent a year travelling abroad, the first time he had left the United Kingdom, visiting Holland, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. Returning to London, Blake continued to appropriate pop culture icons and advertising imagery to create homages to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Elvis Presley and professional wrestlers. His iconic 1961 Self-portrait with Badges, in the Tate Collection, shows Blake holding an Elvis album, dressed in American jeans, Converse trainers, and baseball badges. In 1967 Blake designed the iconic album cover for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with his first wife Jann Haworth and continued to be associated with the music world by designing album covers for other bands including The Who and Ian Drury and the Blockheads.
After this prodigious start, from the 1970s to today Blake has enjoyed regular gallery and institutional exhibitions, frequently designing posters for the shows as well as pieces for national magazines and newspapers. Blake was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1981, had residency at the National Gallery, London 1993–96 and was knighted in 2002. 2013 saw the first presentation of Blakes’s major series Dylan Thomas: Under Milk Wood, at National Museum Cardiff. In 2014, his 7 metre-wide montage mural Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall was unveiled and the Mersey ferry Snowdrop, commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, was launched in 2015. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Blake designed the Evening Standard’s London Stands Together poster and in December 2020 his Thank You London was illuminated on the advertising hoarding at Piccadilly Circus and projected on the facade of the National Gallery and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Blake’s first solo exhibition was held in 1962 at Portal Gallery, London; solo shows followed at Robert Fraser Gallery, London (1965) and at Leslie Waddington Prints, London (1969). His first retrospective exhibition was held in 1969 at the City Art Gallery, Bristol. Subsequent retrospectives were held in 1973 at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, touring to Hamburg and Brussels and the Tate Gallery in 1983. In 1994 he was made the Third Associate Artist of the National Gallery, London. In 2007, the Tate Liverpool held a major retrospective of Peter Blake’s work which toured to the Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, Spain in 2008. A large retrospective of Blake’s collage work, including some of his earliest pieces, took place at Waddington Custot in 2021 with the title Peter Blake: Time Traveller. The major monograph Peter Blake Collage was published by Thames & Hudson alongside the exhibition. In 2022 Waddington Custot presented Blake’s Under Milk Wood series,the first time it had been exhibited outside of Wales to commemorate the artist’s 90th birthday. Marco Livingstone’s Peter Blake: One Man Show, was republished with an additional chapter by Thames & Hudson to commemorate the same occasion.
Peter Blake lives and works in London. He is represented worldwide by Waddington Custot.
'At Work with Peter Blake' installationFrieze Masters 5-8 October 2017
Peter Blake: Collage published today
Published by Waddington Custot in partnership with Thames & Hudson, this monograph is the first complete overview of collage by Peter Blake, from his early assemblages to his most recent 'Late Period'.
Peter Blake (b. 1932) has remained constant and ground-breaking in his exploration of the medium of collage throughout his career spanning seven decades. With a foreword by Blake’s art school friend David Hockney, Peter Blake: Collage combines an illuminating essay, artist interview and numerous colour images in a playful design that captures the spirit of the octogenarian artist’s decades-long career and his significant contribution to this historic medium.
Introducing the volume, a new text essay by Patrick Elliott, Senior Curator at National Galleries Scotland, ‘Peter Blake & Collage’, takes a biographical route through Blake’s life. Also featured is ‘The Butterfly Man’, a conversation between Peter Blake and Natalie Rudd, Senior Curator of the Arts Council Collection and a friend of the artist.
The publication of Peter Blake: Collage coincides with the opening of a new solo survey exhibition at Waddington Custot later this month. Titled Peter Blake: Time Traveller, the exhibition includes a number of important museum loans, bringing together historical pieces with new works on show for the first time.
Exhibitions and Art Fairs
Art Basel Miami Beach 2022
Peter Blake: Time Traveller
Peter Blake: Time Traveller charts the development of Blake’s approach to collage-making, beginning with his layering of subject matter in early painted compositions and experiments with collaged paper after encountering work by Kurt Schwitters in the 1950s. From here, the exhibition travels via Blake’s rise to prominence as the ‘Godfather of British Pop art’ to his current, self-proclaimed Late Period. From his found object constructions to his most recent digital print photo-collages, Blake has broadened the scope of what collage can comprise and what it can communicate. Peter Blake: Time Traveller includes works from Blake’s Alphabet and Museum of Black and White series, as well as pieces made in homage to fellow artists Sonia Delaunay, Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg. Clowns, wrestlers and Icons are shown alongside work around souvenirs and holiday postcards.
The artist’s largest canvas work to date, Late Period: Battle, is seen on view for the first time. The piece, measuring 183.4 x 293.5 cm, was started by Blake in 1964 only to be abandoned and left unfinished until the artist turned to collage to complete the work in 2018.
The works in this group presentation demonstrate the translation of drawing into the three-dimensional; towering monumental installations protrude from the walls, and curl up from floors, while the negative space of the picture plane is variously architecturally structured, or revealed through light and shade.
The exhibition includes works by Peter Blake, Enrico Castellani, Michael Craig-Martin, Ian Davenport, Jean Dubuffet, Barry Flanagan, Peter Halley, Hans Hartung, Frank Stella and Bernar Venet among others.
One of Bernar Venet’s iconic Indeterminate Line sculptures, created in rolled steel, shows the French artist’s approach to conceptualising and configuring space.
Mgarap Bangke, a 2004 wall-based sculpture by Frank Stella, similarly towers in a tangle of industrial materials, which the artist has coerced into curving organic forms. Moulded sections of dark carbon fibre are supported by circular loops of unpainted stainless-steel tubing and geometric rails.
A new painting by Ian Davenport, titled Yellow and Purple (Double), is also displayed, portraying the artist's use of colour as a tool to delineate space through controlled movements of vibrant paint.
Frieze New York
This diverse presentation of artworks spans several decades, with pieces connecting through a multitude of points.
Art Basel Hong Kong
Our presentation includes works by Chu Teh-Chun, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peter Blake, Ian Davenport, Jean Dubuffet, Barry Flanagan, Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulages and Fabienne Verdier.