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Featured Artists

Peter Max
Marc Chagall
Pablo Picasso
Salvador Dali
Itzchak Tarkay
Erik Freyman
S. Sam Park
S. Sam
Marco Mark

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Peter Max

USA ( 1937 - )

Available Works:

Limited Editions

As one of America’s most famous artists, Peter Max is also a pop culture icon. His dynamic appeal, like George Gershwin, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney and Bob Dylan, has spanned all demographics for several generations. With over sixty record-breaking one-man museum exhibitions to his credit, Max has extended the dimensions of his art to create larger than life canvases, such as a 600 ft. wide Woodstock ‘99 stage and a painted Continental Airlines’ super jet. Max has painted portraits, ranging from U.S. Presidents and international statesmen, to famous figures in all aspects of American pop culture. He now proudly adds “Diesel” to his historical portrait collection.

A Magical Childhood Adventure

The childhood of Peter Max is the material from which a sweeping James Michener novel or a Steven Spielberg movie is made: exotic locations, a cast of fascinating international characters, and the creative freedom to experiment and discover oneself.

His life’s adventure began in Germany, then from the age of one, can be mapped across China, Tibet, Israel and France, before he reached his ultimate destination, America. With a pan-cultural background such as this for a budding artist, it was inevitable that his work would become so rich and manifold. Max’s rise to prominence as an American icon actually began in his childhood home in Shanghai— a pagoda house, where on one side there was a Buddhist monastery, and on the other, a Sikh temple. In the morning he would watch the Buddhist monks painting Chinese characters on vast sheets of rice paper with large bamboo brushes and at night, he would listen to the beautifully sung prayers of the Sikhs.

Shanghai was a colorful, magical place; there were always parades going by with dragons floating in the sky, chimes ringing and gongs echoing. The splendor of the Orient, however, could not compete with a street vendor’s offering— American comic books. Young Peter’s imagination raced as he was carried away to fantasies of other worlds and into the future. Peter also listened to American jazz on Shanghai radio and watched first run Hollywood movies over and over again at his friend’s father’s movie theater. There, in the ancient land of China, Peter Max became more immersed in contemporary American iconography than most children living in the U.S.A. at the time.

Early Art Influences

Peter’s mother, Salla, was a fashion designer in Berlin before the family moved to Shanghai. She cultivated her son’s innate talent by leaving various art supplies on all four balconies of their pagoda house— water colors, ink, brushes, pencils, crayons, colored papers, scissors, etc. She told him, “Choose any balcony and medium, make a big mess and we’ll clean up after you.” Peter’s artistic encouragement continued when the family traveled to Haifa, Israel. There, he studied with Austrian expressionist, Professor Honik, who introduced his student to the colorful world of Fauvism and the paintings and drawings of Henri Matisse, Maurice Vlaminck, Max Beckmann and Alexi Jawlensky.

A Cosmic Awakening

While Peter studied painting, his creativity became stimulated by another source. One day, he visited the Mt. Carmel Observatory and his earlier childhood fascination with astronomy got reawakened. He was so eager to learn about space that his parents enrolled him, at once, in an evening astronomy class at the Technion Institute. Learning about the vastness and wonders of the universe was a revelation to Peter. He became so absorbed by the subject, that he began to study art and astonomy simultaneously. His immense passion for space continues to this day, and celestial elements often appear in his works, especially his art of the late 1960s— a period that was appropriately coined, “The Cosmic ‘60s.”

The next destination of wonder was Paris, where Peter became captivated with the grand scale and painstaking perfection of Classical art and Realism, particularly the paintings of French artist, Bouguereau. Once again, his quest for creative self-expression was so strong that his parents enrolled him into art classes at the Louvre. But ultimately, it was New York City, with its growing pop art culture of fashions, automobiles, movie theaters, and towering over them all, the Empire State Building, that had taken a young man who had grown up in ancient lands and suddenly catapulted him into the future.

The Realism Period 1958-1962

Max began his formal art studies at the Art Students League in Manhattan under the tutelage of Frank Reilly, a realistic painter. Reilly was trained by George Bridgeman, who is considered to be one of the great anatomists of the twentieth century. Reilly’s classmate, who studied alongside him, turned out to be one of America’s favorite artists— Norman Rockwell.

“Reilly was a great technician,” says Max. “He was a scientist of light and shadow. He would have his students paint the same face forty times in as many types of light or angles as could be imagined.”

Max’s desire to master realism was intense. From the early morning sketch classes at 8 A.M. until the last class in the evening at 8 P.M., he worked constantly, studying anatomy, figure drawing, perspective, light and shadow, fabrics and textures, and composition. He worked with oil paint, watercolors, pastels, and charcoal. After classes and on weekends, Max spent all his spare time at museums studying the techniques of the masters. From Rembrandt, he learned light and composition; from Valesquez, the meticulous representation of form; from Bouguereau, photographic exactitude; and from Sargent, confident and stylistic brushstrokes. Of this rigorous discipline, Max says, “It gave me the gift of observation— the purity of seeing a thing clearly as it was.”

The Graphic Arts Period 1962-1964

After leaving the Art Student’s League, Max began looking for a gallery to exhibit his work. By chance, an Art Director for a record company, saw Max’s paintings at a photo copy service, where he had left them to make prints. He immediately contacted Max and commissioned him to do a painting for a record album cover for Meade Lux Lewis, the blues piano player. The album cover won the annual Society of Illustrators award and many other commisions and awards followed. Although Max’s winning combination of graphic design, composition, and realism, met with instant success in the New York graphic arts industry, his quest for new creative expression did not stop there. As soon as he saved up enough money, he withdrew from commercial commissions and took a two year creative retreat. The retreat resulted in an innovative body of work in collage and photo montage. The Collage Period: 1964-1967 Excited by the mid-’60s counterculture explosion, Max turned to the medium of collage to capture the zeitgeist of the era and create a mind-expanding psychedelic vision. The art of collage has a distinguished history in Modern art, extending back to the cubist work of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. But Max’s collages had more in common with the Dadaists— Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp— as well as the surrealists— René Magritte and Salvator Dali. Although collage was already established as a great technique of Modernism, the use of photographic images in kaleidoscopic patterns was pioneered by Max.

The Peter Max Poster Revolution

Just as Max felt the oncoming impact of the ‘60s underground Cultural Revolution, he also saw the print industry expanding with four-color web presses. To Peter, this print media explosion meant one thing— he could turn his original art works into posters and share them with the youth of America. A new world of possibilities opened for Max. He created color combinations right on the printing press, utilizing a “split fountain” technique that enabled him to blend colors as they were going through the ink rollers. He lyrically described the process as playing a printing press like an electric piano. “In the sphere of printmaking, technical breakthroughs of this magnitude are the doorways to originality,” says Charles Reilly. Soon, Max’s posters were hanging in college dorms all across America with several million sold in nine months. His posters were to the ‘60s what MTV was to the early ‘80s – radical, revolutionary and in demand. “Peter Max’s posters show him to be a visionary fascinated by time, space and evolution,” wrote reporter Don McNeil in the Village Voice, Aug. 31, 1967.

Peter Max’s Cosmic ‘60s

To the youth of America, the “sixties” was more than just another decade; it was the great American renaissance. The Beatles sang about it; the musical, Hair, brought it to the Broadway stage; and one artist, above all— Peter Max— visually captured its creative spirit and its promise of the dawning of “The Age of Aquarius.” Max’s signature style of cosmic characters, meticulously painted against bold, vibrant colors, were among the most influential graphic sources of the 1960s. Capturing the zeitgeist of the era, Max’s art was often cited by journalists and art critics as the visual counterpart to the music of The Beatles. Like the Beatles, Max also made his television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. He also appeared on the NBC Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and made the cover of Life Magazine with an eight-page feature cover story.

Max’s art was so much in synch with the times that it was licensed by 72 corporations, from General Electric clocks to Burlington Mills socks. Within a three year period, the line of products had generated more than $1 billion in retail sales.In 1970, Max had his first one-man exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The museum curator, Elsa Cameron, considered his licensed art products an important part of American Pop culture and dedicated an entire exhibition hall to display them. The exhibition attracted more than 25,000 visitors the first week. As a result of its success, a museum tour of thirty-nine museums across America was installed by the Smithsonian Institute Exhibition Services.

The 1970s Creative Retreat

By 1970, Max found himself at the head of an enormous five-story creative art center, staffed by 52 people on Manhattan’s fashionable East Side. He appeared on the cover of over 70 magazines, including Time, Life and Business Week. Max was overwhelmed with his success; after all, he was only painting because it was fun. Then, one day, after vacationing in Mexico, Max returned to New York and unexpectedly decided to wind down his company. “I was spending less and less time at my easel,” he said. “It no longer made sense to be attached to a large business when all I wanted to do was paint. I’m not the kind of person that can rest on my success. I need to be constantly moving ahead in another direction, evolving, trying something new. Destinations don’t interest me as much as the process of getting there.”

He left the five-story townhouse and retreated to his Riverside Drive apartment, where he set up his living room as a painting studio. At first, he began to paint without any goals or directions. He simply let the paintings and drawings occur. He turned away from the flat, bold colors and heavy black lines that were the hallmark of his Cosmic art and allowed his work to wander into abstraction at times. As he played with various techniques, a spare Oriental style emerged, or an intricate variation of Cubism. As the size of the canvas enlarged, he began using World War II house-painter brushes, which required more movement in his body. Before he had been drawing and painting using only the movement of his wrist, now he was using his arm, elbow, and shoulder. Painting became more like a dance as he began to involve the use of his whole body. Interestingly, this new manner of painting was reminiscent of the Buddhist painters he observed as a child in Shanghai.

Neo Max: The 1980s

When Max emerged from his retreat in the mid 1980s, he had a few exhibitions in New York and was exhilarated by the response. The news media made it sound as if he had been reborn or had just returned home from a long odyssey.

The new art of Peter Max was critically related to neo-expressionism, and some critics termed it “Neo-Fauvist” because of the bold colors. The work was described as more “painterly,” since now there was texture where before there had been large, flat planes. The colors and their juxtapositions were still shocking, but richly blended. Gradually, various themes evolved, which he would paint in different styles, contexts and color combinations. These symbols became an iconography of his inner world, and characters such as the Sages and Monks, the Profiles, Dega Man, Zero Megalopolis, The Umbrella Man, Fan Lady, and Blushing Beauty became frequent companions on canvas. They had a certain glamour, reflecting the opulence of the ‘80s. Even the sages and monks had become less ascetic, au courant with Max’s richly blended brushstrokes. One of the great influences during this period was his decade-long relationship with fashion model Rosie Vela. Rosie was a Ford model and graced the cover of many Vogue Magazine covers and editorial spreads. Enamoured with her beauty, Max began sketching her profile and developed minimalist lines to capture the lovely contours of her facial features: eyes, nose, lips, chin, etc. Ultimately, Max’s drawing of a lady profile became his preeminent signature icon. Said Eileen Ford, Founder/Director of the Ford model agency, “ Peter Max not only has an eye for beauty, he also has the mastery to capture a beeautiful lady’s profile in a minimalistic style that is reminiscent of Matisse and Picasso. Max’s profiles are as lovely as mu most beautiful models.”

Another beautiful lady that Max became enchanted with was Lady Liberty. He began painting the Statue of Liberty in 1976, and in the eighties, he developed an iconic portrait that he recreated in numerous variations of color and brushstrokes. The artist’s fascination with the Statue led to its renovation, which he personally spearheaded (read more about it in the Peter Max Paints America link on this website.

The 1990s: The Better World Series

Since the 1960s the art of Peter Max has frequently expressed a global vision of a healthy planet, unified and at peace. In the 1990s, Max began creating a series of works which addressed the environmental and socio-political concerns of humanity— “The Better World” series. It began with his painting of an angel embracing the Earth, which he named “I Love the World.” It was inspired while hanging backstage at the Live Aid concert and being touched by the caring and generosity of the music industry. Then, as the complexion of the world changed, Max synchronized his art with global events, as if he’d been plugged in to the pulse of the times. Soon after unveiling his “Forty Gorbys” installation— an homage to former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev— the Berlin Wall fell, and Max was selected as the American artist to receive a 7000 pound section. Using a hammer and chisel, Max carved out a dove of peace from within the stone and placed it on top, free and in flight. The sculpture was installed in the Battleship Intrepid Museum.

The following year, Max was invited by Gorbachev to have an Eastern European museum tour, premiering at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and then traveling to the Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow. It was the largest art opening in Soviet history, with over 14,500 people attending opening night. As the tour continued to other cities in Europe, Max paid homage to another great world leader with his 108 portraits of the Dalai Lama. And in 1992, Max created a 250 ft. mural for the American Pavilion at the World’s Fair in Seville, Spain.

In 1993, Max was invited to create the official poster for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. He created not just one, but three posters— as well as hundreds of thousands of flyers, 65,000 T-shirts, several billboard-size murals, and 100 canvas portraits of Bill Clinton. In addition, he painted 50 small canvases of the Presidential Seal as a special gift to President Clinton to offer his top aides and special guests. After all, Bill Clinton was a young U.S. President who liked rock and roll and also played the sax.

Throughout this period, while Max was contributing to American pop culture with official posters and art events, his main focus had been, as always, on his deep personal relationship with his art, whether it be paint on canvas, warter colors and pen & ink on paper, etchings, ceramics, and printmaking. So while the history of Max’s movement on the world stage has its own merits, Max’s personal art development had its own direction and undercurrent. During the ‘80s and 90s, a prolific body of work manifested, often out of sight of the public eye.

Peter Max in the New Millennium

Max entered the new millennium with a Boeing 777 super jet. He was commissioned by Continental Airlines to paint a “$160 million canvas,” which was designated as the NYC Millennium plane.

In response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack at the World Trade Center, Max created a series of posters to help benefit the 911 relief fund. He also created a portrait installation of the 356 firemen who perished in 2001, including the 343 who responded to the attack on Sept.11. In creating the installation, he made a duplicate painting of each fireman and offered it to the victims’ families. Subsequently, Max created posters to support both the Katrina and Tsunami Relief Fund.

The new millennium also saw the first major Peter Max museum retrospective in America in 35 years. The grand exhibition opened at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center on February 12, 2006. Max has since had museum exhibitions at The Tennessee State Museum, the El Paso Museum. The deYoung museum in San Francisco, and most recently— the Clinton Presidential Center.

The Artist at Work Today

At his atelier today, Max continues to paint variations on his iconic images, portraits of important contemporary personalities, and works in abstract expressionism. His unending fascination with time, infinity and space has also inspired him to create a new series of Cosmic Art works, based on drawings that originated in the 1960s. He considers his new Cosmic Art creations as studies for larger dynamic works, which may, in an upcoming museum installation, fill an entire wall. The new Cosmic Art works will be accompanied by astounding factoids of our ever-expanding universe and will include interviews with N eil Tyson, Director of the Haydn Planetarium and Michio Kaku, author/ physicist.