Peter Blake is an English artist known for his quirky pop art collages, his most famous being the cover for The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Blake was born in Kent, and attended the Gavesend Technical College and School of Art for three years in the Junior Art Department between 1946 and 1949, before spending two years at the Gravesend School of Art. He was accepted into the Royal College of Art, London in 1950, but did not attend until 1953 because he first needed to complete his National Service with the RAF. In 1956, Blake gained a First Class Diploma from the Royal College of Art, and was able to travel around Europe for almost a year as his talents earned him a Leverhulme Research Award to study popular art.
Three years after his return to England in 1957, Blake received First Prize in the Junior Section at the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition for his work, Self Portrait with Badges. This prize gained him notice, and in 1962, he held the first of a long list of solo shows at the Portal Gallery in London. Blake had already been shown alongside such significant contemporaries as David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, which associated him with the British Pop Art movement. Also in 1962, the BBC featured Blake in a documentary entitled Pop Goes the Easel, bringing his work into the public eye. During this time of burgeoning success, Blake also taught at various art schools such as St. Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art.
In 1967, the Beatles’ released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with Blake’s iconic cover, which immortalized him in popular culture. By 1969 the City Art Gallery held Blake’s first retrospective, followed by another, larger show in 1983 at the Tate, London.
Blake was one of the founders of the Brotherhood of Ruralists in 1975, along with Jan Haworth, Ann and Graham Arnold, David Inshaw and Annie and Graham Ovenden. The group began to exhibit together in 1976 at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. Their last major exhibition was with the Leicester Galleries in 1985.
In 1981, Blake was elected a Royal Academician, in 1983 he was awarded the CBE and in 2002 he received a knighthood for his services to the arts in Britain.
In 1985, Blake was asked to design another landmark album cover for the Live Aid album, Do They Know It’s Christmas? Live Aid was the largest international concert effort in history, and helped raise money for famine relief in Africa.
Blake is still creating art and album covers for bands like Oasis and the Who. He lives and works in London.
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