Peter Max is a graphic artist best known for his psychedelic style of painting and use of bright, vibrant colors. He is a pop culture icon who revolutionized the concept of modern art in the United States. Considered one of the most popular living American artists, he shaped the way contemporary America views art. He traveled the world as a child with his family and was exposed to a variety of exotic locations in Tibet, Africa, and Europe before settling in the United States. In the 1960s, he began his artistic career by co-founding a small arts studio with a friend. He created a distinctive style of art by fusing vintage photographic images, vibrant colors, and collages. His studio quickly gained popularity among business owners, and his artwork began to appear on posters and walls of colleges throughout the United States. He incorporated elements of astronomy—a subject he was passionate about—into his paintings and ushered in the ‘Cosmic 60s’ period, which was characterized by psychedelic, counter culture imagery. He became well-known for his distinctive symbolism and expressionism, and his works were featured in several television commercials, establishing him as a national icon. He is a vegetarian and an outspoken advocate for human and animal rights, dedicating several of his works to these causes.
Childhood & Adolescence
He was born in Berlin, Germany, to Salla and her husband, a fashion designer. In 1938, the family relocated to Shanghai, China in order to flee Nazism in their native country. They stayed in China for ten years, during which time the young Peter was exposed to the Chinese culture’s rich art and traditions, which influenced him greatly throughout his career as an artist.
The family spent the next few years traveling and staying in various exotic locations throughout the world, including Israel, Tibet, Africa, and Europe, before settling in the United States.
He took classes at the Louvre Museum while the family was in Paris for several months. While in Israel, he studied with Professor Honik, an Austrian expressionist who introduced him to the works of Henri Matisse, Max Beckmann, and Maurice Vlaminck. He was also interested in astronomy from an early age and attended evening astronomy classes at the Technion Institute.
Peter’s family relocated to Brooklyn in 1953, and he attended New York City’s Lafayette High School.
He began his formal art education in 1956 at the Art Students League of New York under the tutelage of realistic painter Frank Reilly. He studied anatomy, composition, and figure drawing. Max worked with oil paint, watercolors, pastels, and charcoal with zeal.
He spent his free time visiting museums, where he studied the techniques of famous artists. He observed and absorbed various nuances of art through Rembrandt’s, Valesquez’s, and Sargent’s paintings.
Career of Peter Max
In 1962, he co-founded ‘The Daly & Max Studio’ with his friend Tom Daly. His work caught the attention of a record company’s art director, who commissioned him to create a painting for the blues pianist Meade Lux Lewis’s album cover. The cover garnered numerous awards and accolades, propelling him forward in his career.
Between 1964 and 1967, he concentrated on collages, a concept popularized by the 1960s counterculture. He invented a unique collage technique that incorporated antique photographs in kaleidoscopic patterns.
During this time period, the print media industry was also expanding, providing him with an incredible opportunity to convert his original artwork into posters and spread his message across the country. His posters, which featured vibrant colors and bold strokes, quickly became popular among the youth and could be found on college campuses throughout the United States.
In 1970, an exhibition titled ‘The World of Peter Max’ was held, featuring a number of his posters and paintings. The exhibition debuted at San Francisco’s M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.
In 1981, President Reagan invited him to paint six Liberty portraits for the White House. Additionally, he has painted portraits of five US Presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.
He was the official artist for a number of international sporting events and festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Woodstock in 1994, and the Super Bowl and Grammy Awards in 1995.
Significant Works of Peter Max
Peter Max is one of the most well-known living artists, having exhibited in over 40 international museums and over 50 galleries worldwide. He is credited with revolutionizing 1960s art with his ‘Cosmic 60s’ style and having a profound influence on the American counterculture.
Awards and Accomplishments
He was presented with the prestigious Pinnacle Alumni in Art and Design Award by The Black Alumni of Pratt (BAP) in 2010 for his contributions to the art world and his significant humanitarian work.
Personal History and Legacies
He is the husband of Mary Max. He is a vegetarian who is an outspoken advocate for human and animal rights. He frequently dedicates his work to these causes, including a $180,000 donation to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Estimated Net Worth
Peter Max is a German-born American artist with a $50 million fortune. Peter Max was born in October 1937 in Berlin, Germany. He is recognized for his use of vibrant colors, and his work is associated with the 1960s and the psychedelic and pop art movements.
On one of Continental Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, the artist’s work is featured.