Who Are They?

Who is Peter Blake?

Explore the enchanting world of British pop artist Peter Blake

Peter Blake, ‘Self-Portrait with Badges’ 1961
Peter Blake
Self-Portrait with Badges 1961
Tate
© Peter Blake 2019. All rights reserved, DACS

Meet Peter Blake. Do you like his badges?

There are some clues in this self-portrait that tell us about Peter Blake. Which pop star do you think he likes?

Blake is wearing a denim jacket, jeans and baseball boots in his self-portrait. Lots of people wear clothes like that now, but in the early 1960s only young people in Britain dressed like this.

Peter Blake was born in Kent in 1932 and is best known as one of the first pop artists in Britain. In the 1950s he was one of a group of young artists who started to paint pictures and make sculptures about popular culture (or pop culture). They painted things they liked such as films, comic books, and pop music. A lot of these things came from America. (Can you spot an American flag on Peter Blake's jacket?).

Peter Blake, ‘Beach Boys’ 1964
Peter Blake
Beach Boys 1964
Tate
© Peter Blake 2019. All rights reserved, DACS

This picture is of the Beach Boys, a pop group from California who were very popular in the 1960s. Pop artists also made art about objects that were mass-produced, like Coca-Cola and cornflakes. They wanted to celebrate the things we think of as ordinary and show that they could be art too.

Peter Blake, ‘On the Balcony’ 1955–7
Peter Blake
On the Balcony 1955–7
Tate
© Peter Blake 2019. All rights reserved, DACS

Blake was seen as a radical artist who only painted new things. But actually, his paintings are often quite traditional and were inspired by artists such as Samuel Palmer and William Blake who lived in the 1700s. Many of his artworks were based on, or refer to, classical paintings by British artists such as the Georgian painter Thomas Gainsborough.

In the painting above, On the Balcony 1955–7, he combined pictures of traditional artworks with contemporary American and British popular culture. This picture includes 27 variations on the theme of 'On the Balcony', from a famous painting by a 19th century artist called Edouard Manet to a newspaper photograph of the royal family.

Peter Blake, ‘‘But isn’t it old!’ Tweedledum cried’ 1970
Peter Blake
‘But isn’t it old!’ Tweedledum cried 1970
Tate
© Peter Blake 2019. All rights reserved, DACS

In the late 1960s Peter Blake started an art group called The Ruralists. They painted pictures about the beauty and magic of everyday rural life. They left London and moved to the countryside where they hoped to create paintings that were joyful and inventive.

This picture was made while Blake was a Ruralist. It is one of a series of paintings based on Alice's Adventures of Wonderland, which is a very magical book. All sorts of enchanting things happen to Alice. Blake used his daughter as the model for Alice.

Peter Blake, ‘I may not be a Ruralist anymore, but this morning I saw a fairy in my garden in Chiswick’ 2008
Peter Blake
I may not be a Ruralist anymore, but this morning I saw a fairy in my garden in Chiswick 2008
Tate
© Peter Blake 2019. All rights reserved, DACS

Peter Blake enjoyed living in the countryside, but he returned to London in 1979 after the Ruralists broke up.

That didn't stop him from looking for fantastical things in everyday life though. This picture is called I May Not Be a Ruralist Anymore but Today I Saw a Fairy in My Garden in Chiswick.

What a fantastic name for an artwork! What else could this be called?

We applaud you Peter Blake for taking the ordinary and making is extraordinary!

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