Sir Peter Blake - The Godfather of British Pop Art

Best known for the co-creation of The Beatles album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the design of two of The Who’s albums, Sir Peter Blake is one of the most prominent figures in British Pop Art. 

Best known for the co-creation of The Beatles album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the design of two of The Who’s albums, Sir Peter Blake is one of the most prominent figures in British Pop Art. 

Blake first exhibited in the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1961 and in the same year at the Whitechapel Gallery, where the first truly Pop Art piece made in Britain was exhibited in 1956; Richard Hamilton’s ‘Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?’. The Young Contemporaries exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery held the works of David Hockney, Ronald Brooks Kitaj and Allen Jones among others and established a whole generation of young artists and where Blake was first associated with an emerging British Pop Art movement. 

Born in Dartford, Kent in 1932. The son of an electrician and a self described ‘solitary child’ despite having a brother and sister. Blake studied at the Gravesend Technical College of Art and then the Royal College of Art. His childhood and education was disrupted when his family had to be evacuated during WWII. Like many artists of his generation coming of age in post war Britain, Blake was drawn to the advertisements of the booming American advertising industry that used groundbreaking techniques like screen-printing to depict a bright and modern lifestyle in lurid colour and incessant iteration.

Blake’s influence is a difficult thing to qualify, with prolific collage designs for famous album covers, grid compositions, target paintings and above all, his influences being based in elements of popular culture that endured, it’s easy to see Blake everywhere. 

From ‘On the Balcony’, ‘Girlie Door’ and ‘Self-Portrait with Badges’ we can see motifs emerging, that Blake would carry with him his whole career, and that are really at the core of British Pop Art. Blake arranged his compositions as collections of images on 2 dimensional planes and explores the very human habit of collecting images and amalgamating them to form individual identity. The numerous badges on Blake’s jacket in ‘Self-Portrait with Badges’ are a collection of pictures that build an identity, not dissimilar to his later works, The Who’s ‘WHO’ album cover and ‘100 Sources of Pop Art’. Blake saw beauty everywhere, from how people arrange symbols and images on their clothes, to bright advertisements and colourful packaging. 

Here at the gallery we have a beautiful selection of silkscreen prints from the ‘Fag Packet’ series by Sir Peter Blake. Discarded cigarette packages flattened into crumpled nets, enlarged to reveal their bright colour, intricate graphics and wrinkled texture, Blake obviously took the phrase ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ in a very literal way. 

View the works here ‘Gauloises Caporal’, ‘Belga- Packet’ and ‘Visa Duplex Filter’.