Peter Max (born Peter Max Finkelstein, October 19, 1937) is a German-born American artist best known for his iconic posters in the 1960s.
Childhood and early career
Born in Berlin, Max fled Germany with his parents in 1938 and emigrated to Shanghai, China. The family lived in Tibet, India, South Africa, Italy then settled in Israel in 1948. After attending art school in Paris for 9 months, he then moved to Brooklyn in 1953.
In 1956, Max began his formal art training at the Arts Students League
, studying anatomy, figure drawing and composition.
In 1962 Max started a small Manhattan arts studio with friend Tom Daly. Max was commissioned by Riverside Records
to create cover art for Meade Lux Lewis
. The album art won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators in 1962. With the use of photographic images as elements of collage, Max organized the Bettman Panopticon exhibition utilizing the antique photo content of the Bettman archives. It was considered one of the most avant-garde
exhibitions of the New York graphic arts scene. His interest in Astronomy
led to his Cosmic 60s period by way of art posters. He appeared on the Tonight Show in 1968 and on the cover of LIFE magazine
on 9-5-1969. Max's 1968 LOVE poster was emblematic of late 60s pop-culture iconography.
In 1970, many of Max's products and posters were featured in the exhibition "The World of Peter Max" which opened at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco
. The US Postal Service commissioned Max to create the first 10¢ postage stamp to commemorate Expo 74 World's Fair
, Washington. July 4th, 1976, Max began his Statue of Liberty
series leading to his efforts with Chrysler
CEO Lee Iacocca
to help spearhead the restoration of the statue.
The 1980s to Present
Official artist for many major events including Grammy Awards
, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
, The Super Bowl
Max's art work was a part of the psychedelic movement
in graphic design. His work was much imitated in commercial illustration in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Although he did not participate in the project, Yellow Submarine, a 1968 animated film based on music by The Beatles, may have been influenced by his work, although the origins of the style are not clear.
Peter Max's later decorative style evolved from his 1960s pop art style to neo-expressionism.
He works in multiple media, including oil, acrylics, water colors, fingerpaints, dyes, pastels, charcoal, pen, multi-colored pencils, etchings, engravings, animation cels, lithographs, serigraphs, ceramics, sculpture, collage, video, xerox, fax, and computer graphics. He also includes mass media as a "canvas" for his creative expression.
Max often uses American symbols in his artwork and has done paintings and projects for Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. Recently he created his 100 Clintons, a multiple portrait installation whose images were used through the four days of the Presidential inauguration. More recently, Max completed his fourth Grammy-Award poster, redesigned NBC television's symbolic peacock, was appointed as the official artist for the World Cup USA 1994 and created a "Peace Accord" painting for the White House to commemorate a historic signing.
One of Continental Airlines' Boeing 777 aircraft (registered N77014) sported a special livery designed by Max. The livery was removed in the winter of 2007-2008.
His artwork is currently on the walls of CBS's morning show, "The Early Show."
Max owns a collection of 36 Chevrolet Corvettes, dating from 1956 to 1989, one for each year.
Peter Max is an environmentalist and defender of human and animal rights.
In 1997 Max pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and tax evasion. He was sentenced to two months in prison and 800 hours of community service.
Peter Max was in the news in 2002 when he offered to provide a life of green fields for Cinci Freedom, a cow that escaped from an Ohio slaughterhouse. The cow leapt over a six-foot fence while the slaughterhouse workers were on break and eluded capture for eleven days. "This little girl's will—facing the end of her life, being so frightened, then taking the risk of all risks to live, to be free—touched me so deeply," Max was quoted as saying, "It was so inspiring. I knew I had to try to preserve that wonderful spirit." Max donated $180,000 worth of his art to benefit the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to ensure her a long life of peace at a New York Farm Sanctuary.