Peter Blake

Got A Girl by Peter Blake
Known in many creative quarters as the ‘Godfather of British Pop Art’, Sir Peter Blake was known as many things to many people. However to the outsider, perhaps he’s best known as the artist responsible for, arguably, one of the best (and certainly the most iconic) album cover artworks of the 20th Century; namely The Beatles, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Designed and created in 1967, whilst the Liverpudlianband were enjoying the peak of their successes, the Sgt Pepper’s album cover jettisoned Blake far beyond the world of art critics and comprehensively into the public eye for the first time; having previously, and perhaps somewhat inadvertently, being positioned at the forefront of the Pop Art movement a few years earlier.

Born in Dartford in Kent in 1932, Blake attended the Gravesend Art School when he was just 16-years old, and in the aftermath of a brief stint of National Service in the RAF, the budding artist resumed his art studies immediately on his return to civvy street, by winning a place at the prestigious Royal College in London, where he furthered his artistic education between 1953 and 1956. Not long after completing his studies and graduating from this universally respected seat of creative learning, Blake almost immediately landed industry-based praise and peer acknowledgement, by scooping both the Leverhulme Research Award and first prize in the junior section of the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition.

In the early 1960s, as Britain in general and London in particular were held ransom to the swinging sixties and the popular cultural vanguard which was mobilising youth and the movers and shakers of associated creative industries, Blake found himself caught up in what was to become the British Pop Art scene; a scene which was making great strides across the pond in America around this time, courtesy of the alternatively artistic best endeavours of noted pioneers such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to name but two exponents. This turned out to be the turning point in Blake’s hitherto, largely unrecognised art career, despite those initial successes, and by associating himself and his subject matter with this rapidly developing new genre his work came to the attention of a far wider, more critical audience.

This in turn earned Blake his debut one-man show in 1962, staged at London’s Portal Gallery, which was followed in quick succession by being featured in acclaimed film-maker of the time, Ken Russell’s new celluloid piece celebrating Pop Art, entitled, ‘Pop Goes the Easel’. But there was always more to Blake’s art than just his Pop Art overtures and emblemic album cover designs, as there was his on-going lip service to conceptual art which remained a long-standing creative weapon in his multi-faceted armament. However, having said that, Blake’s flirtations with conceptual art were said to have never strayed far enough from craft and traditional media to earn a place at the ‘neo-conceptual’ artists’ top table over the years, and instead his name is firmly cemented in the annals of Pop Art history. No bad thing though, and along with his album sleeve art has ensured Blake commands the respect of the art world per se, and culminated in further awards and retrospectives of his work at various junctures in recent history.

In 1981 Blake was appointed an R.A, whilst a C.B.E followed in 1983, before he was knighted by The Queen in 2002 in recognition of his considerable services to art and the legacy he will one day leave. In terms of is retrospectives, and Blake has witnessed sizeable exhibitions in the Tate, both in London (1983) and Liverpool (2008), while in 2005 the Sir Peter Blake Music Art Gallery was unveiled by the artist himself, which amongst its many exhibits featured a permanent collection of some 20 of Blake’s most famous album sleeve designs.

Indeed, Blake will be best remembered as thelong-term darling of the music industry in many ways, courtesy of his seminal work with The Beatles album sleeve artwork first and foremost, with Blake later returning to this rewarding illustrative genre to which he’d nearly always been associated, collaborating with a host of other household name recording artists in more recent years. These having included the likes of Paul Weller (on his 1995 ‘Stanley Road’’ album cover), The Who’s ‘Face Dances’ (released in 1981), the Oasis Greatest Hits album, ‘Stop the Clocks’ in 2006 and, surprisingly, Band Aid’s famous charity fundraising single which broke all records, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ in 1984.

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