Happy Birthday to Peter Max

 In Artist Birthdays, Artists & Special Collections, Peter Max
Liberty Head Peter Max Park West Gallery

Liberty Head” (2014), Peter Max

Join Park West Gallery in wishing renowned pop artist Peter Max a happy birthday!

Born October 19, 1937, Max has become synonymous with colorful visions of the cosmos, American icons and idyllic worlds that inspire spirituality and capture the imagination.

Park West Gallery has represented Max since 1971, making it the longest-running relationship Park West has with a living artist. During his long career, the artist has painted for six U.S. presidents, was the official artist for the U.S. team for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and has created art for Woodstock, World Cups and Super Bowls. Most recently, the Tampa Museum of Art featured him in a special exhibition.

“My life’s journey has been an odyssey through time and space, filled with vivid moments, abundant with color, dazzling with sights, and vibrant with euphoric sounds,” Max writes in his biography, “The Universe of Peter Max.”

Max was born in Berlin, but in 1938 his family fled to Shanghai, China to escape Nazism. Max and his family spent 10 years in Shanghai, and Max’s experiences in these formative years would greatly influence his artistic development and spiritual growth. He became fascinated by Chinese monks painting on rice paper with large brushes, loving the freedom of line these techniques offered. He also studied the way the monks prayed and meditated on life.

“In addition to my images of sages with canes, I have painted other images of meditating figures, who stand or sit quietly to observe the changing phenomenon of nature,” Max wrote. “The figure is sort of a projection of myself onto a blank canvas unfolding.”

Sage with Umbrella and Cane Peter Max Park West Gallery

Sage with Umbrella and Cane” (2013), Peter Max

Max’s exposure to American culture took place in Shanghai, in the form of comics, movies and music. This manifested in Max’s artwork as bright colors and bold lines. His love for America shines through as well, depicted through his iconic iterations of the U.S. flag and the Statute of Liberty.

His life took him to other exotic locations that influenced his art, including Tibet, Israel and France before he and his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1953. In America, he studied extensively at the Art Students League for five years, and in 1961, began a graphic design studio with his friends, finding overnight success with his bright posters.

In 1970, Max shut down his workshop to focus on painting, adapting his techniques and changing his style to use a softer palette and broader, textured brush strokes.


Cosmology and giving back

Cosmic Flyer Peter Max Park West Gallery

Cosmic Flyer” (2012), Peter Max

Aside his iconic “Umbrella Man” and American iconography, Max is perhaps best known for his cosmic art. He first discovered cosmology in 1948 when a German scientist and astronomer introduced him to the subject. Max rekindled his interest upon taking a trip to an observatory and enrolling in an astronomy class at the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel.

Max channeled his wonder of exploring the vastness of the cosmos into his art, helping define the 1960s as the “Cosmic ‘60s.” To this day he imbues his paintings with his fervor for outer space, a fervor on full display in this interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Max has used his artistic talents to support many charitable causes and organizations. He created artwork to raise money for September 11 relief funds, backs animal rights groups, and even helped raise funds to renovate the Statue of Liberty with Lee Iacocca, former chairman of the Chrysler Corporation.

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