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English pop artist, best known for his design of the sleeve for The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
During the late 1950s, Blake became one of the best known British pop artists. His paintings from this time included imagery from advertisements, music hall entertainment, and wrestlers, often including collaged elements. Blake was included in group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and had his first one person exhibitions in 1960. It was with the 'Young Contemporaries' exhibition of 1961 where he was exhibited alongside David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj that he was first identified with the emerging British Pop Art movement. Blake won the (1961) John Moores junior award for his work Self Portrait with Badges. He first came to wider public attention when, along with Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips, he featured in Ken Russell's film on pop art, Pop Goes the Easel, which was broadcast on BBC television in 1962. From 1963 Blake was represented by Robert Fraser which placed him at the centre of swinging London and brought him into contact with leading figures of popular culture.
Blake also often directly referred to the work of other artists. On the Balcony (1955-57) has Edouard Manet's The Balcony being held by a boy on the left of the composition, and The First Real Target (1961) is a standard archery target with the title written across the top as a play on the paintings of targets by Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns.
Blake also painted several notable album sleeves. As well as the sleeve for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which he designed with his then-wife the American born artist Jann Haworth, the couple married in 1963 and divorced in 1979. Blake also made 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. (Blake had been Dury's tutor at the Royal College of Art in the mid-60s). He also designed the sleeve for The Who's Face Dances (1981), which features portraits of the band by a number of artists.
In 1969 Blake left London to live near Bath. Blake's work changed direction featuring scenes based on English Folklore and characters from Shakespeare. In the early 1970s, he made a set of watercolours to illustrate Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and in 1975 was a founder of the Brotherhood of Ruralists. Blake moved back to London in 1979 and his work returned to the earlier popular culture references.
Blake was made a Royal Academician in 1981, and a CBE in 1983. "A major retrospective of Blake's work was held in the Tate in 1983...(and) in 2002 Blake was awarded a knighthood for his services to art." In February 2005, the Sir Peter Blake Music Art Gallery, located in the School of Music, University of Leeds, was opened by the artist. The permanent exhibition features 17 examples of Blake's album sleeve art, including the only public showing of a signed print of his famed Sgt. Pepper's artwork. In June 2006, as The Who returned to play Leeds University 36 years after recording their seminal Live at Leeds album there in 1970, Blake unveiled a new Live at Leeds 2 artwork to commemorate the event. Both the artist and The Who's Pete Townshend signed an edition which will join the gallery's collection.
More recently, Blake has created Artist's editions for the opening of the Pallant House Gallery which houses collections that include some of his most famous paintings. These works are homages to his earlier work on the Stanley Road album cover and Babe Rainbow prints.
In 2006, Blake designed the cover for Oasis greatest hits album Stop the Clocks. According to Blake, he chose all of the objects in the picture at random, but the sleeves of Sgt. Pepper's and Definitely Maybe were in the back of his mind. He claims, "It's using the mystery of Definitely Maybe and running away with it." Familiar cultural icons which can be seen on the cover include Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Charles Manson (replacing the original image of Marilyn Monroe, which couldn't be used for legal reasons) and the seven dwarfs from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
Blake also revealed that the final cover wasn't the original one. That design featured an image of the shop 'Granny Takes A Trip' on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London.
Blake created an updated version of Sgt. Pepper - with famous figures from Liverpool history - as part of the successful campaign for Liverpool to become European Capital of Culture 2008, and is creating a series of prints to celebrate Liverpool's status.
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