Peter Max

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Peter Max (born Peter Max Finkelstein, October 19, 1937) is a German-born American artist best known for his iconic art style in the 1960s. At first, his “Cosmic 60s” art, as it came to be known, appeared on posters and were seen on the walls of college dorms all across America. Max then became fascinated with new printing techniques that allowed for four-color reproduction on product merchandise. Following his success with a line of art clocks for General Electric, Max’s art was licensed by 72 corporations and he had become a household name. In September 1969 Max appeared on the cover of Life Magazine with an eight-page feature article as well as the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Ed Sullivan Show.[1]

Contents

Biography

Childhood

Peter Max had an adventurous childhood that began when he and his parents fled Berlin in 1938 and traveled to Shanghai, China, where they lived for the next ten years. They lived in a pagoda-style house that overlooked a Buddhist temple, where Peter would observe monks painting calligraphic images with large bamboo brushes on large sheets of rice paper. His Chinese nanny taught Peter how to hold and paint with a brush by using the movement of his wrist and his mother encouraged him to develop his art skills by leaving a variety of art supplies on the balconies of the pagoda and told him to “go ahead and make a mess; we’ll clean it all up after you.”

In 1948, the family departed on a ship that took them on a 48 day sea journey around the continent of Africa and arrived at the port of Haifa, right after Israel had attained its statehood.

They lived in Haifa for two years, and while Peter attended grade school, he simultaneously developed an interest in art and astronomy. His parents supported his interests by sending him to private art classes with a Viennese expressionist painter, Professor Honick, as well as weekly classes in astronomy at the Technion Institute on Mount Carmel.

From Israel, the family continued their journey westward and stopped in Paris for several months. That experience greatly enriched Peter’s appreciation of art; he sketched classic statuary in Parisian gardens, devoured the museums, and even took art classes at the Louvre. While he was impressed by the works of the European Expressionists and Fauvism, he was particularly fascinated with the paintings of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, who was a traditionalist, renowned for his photo-realist style. The influence of Bouguereau, and later, John Singer Sargent, were instrumental in motivating Peter to take up realism when he began his formal art studies at the Art Students League of New York.[1]

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