As the son of immigrants who moved to the United States in 1953, Peter Max embraced the culture and freedoms the country offered, and in turn, the country embraced his unique and colorful Pop art.
From painting portraits of U.S. presidents to helping restore the Statue of Liberty, Max celebrates the American spirit of creativity and freedom through his patriotic artworks.
The Statue of Liberty
Max’s longstanding fascination with the Statue of Liberty began July 4, 1976. Max honored the United States’ Bicentennial by painting a portrait of the statue, and made it a tradition to create Lady Liberty’s portrait every Fourth of July. This caught the attention of Nancy Reagan, who in 1981 invited Max to paint six portraits of the famous statue at the White House.
Max played a significant role in the restoration of the Statue of Liberty by introducing Lee Iacocca, then-chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, to the restoration project. In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca as the head of the Statute of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. Max was deeply involved with the foundation, and by July 1986 the statue was restored reopened to the public.
Flag With Hearts
In “The Universe of Peter Max,” the artist recalls how he and his parents fled from the Nazi party and the armies of Mao Zedong in a quest for freedom. Max says that ever since he was 15 years old, he has loved the United States and its core values of freedom, opportunity, and equality.
“Freedom is what I value most in life, and I’m happy to say that my lifelong goal of keeping myself in a space of creative and spiritual freedom has been met, even though at times it has been difficult,” Max writes.
As an artist, Max loves colors and what they can symbolize. The U.S. flag’s red, white, and blue colors represent ideas like purity, innocence, valor, perseverance, and justice, but Max adds another idea—love. Max’s depictions of U.S. flags are often paired with bright hearts, signifying the artist’s deep appreciation and fondness for his adoptive nation.
September 11 Series
Max considers himself a “tried-and-true New Yorker.” The Pop artist was among the creative talents who worked to provide relief to victims of the September 11 attacks. Max created six poster images, and proceeds from the sales donated to the Twin Towers and Survivors Relief funds. The series featured portraits of the Statue of Liberty and Max’s iteration of the U.S. flag.
Max didn’t stop at the 9/11 series. In a labor of love, he created portraits of the 356 firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, individually wrapped them in U.S. flags and presenting them to each firefighter’s family.
In 2016, Max created his “Freedom Suite,” a series of etchings with remarques—unique sketches done on the margin of a plate or stone. The suite brings together Max’s “Statue of Liberty,” “Liberty Head,” and “Flag with Art” images into a single collection.
The remarques are Max’s Sage with Cane and Sailboat imagery hand-drawn in colored pencil. This blending of Max’s patriotic and spiritual images speaks to his love of America and its diversity.
“In America I was given the opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming an artist and to follow the spiritual teachings of my choice,” Max writes.
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