Max (born Peter Max Finkelstein, October 19, 1937) is a German-born
American artist best known for his iconic art style in the 1960s. Max is
a multi-dimensional creative artist. Peter Max has worked with oils,
acrylics, water colors, finger paints, dyes, pastels, charcoal, pen,
multi-colored pencils, etchings, engravings, animation cells,
lithographs, serigraphs, silk screens, ceramics, sculpture, collage,
video and computer graphics. He loves all media, including mass media as
a "canvas" for his creative expression.
Peter Max was born in Berlin in 1937 but his family moved to China when he was still very young. In fact the young Max would move frequently with his family, learning about a variety of cultures throughout the world while traveling from Tibet to Africa to Israel to Europe until his family moved to the U.S. In America Peter Max was trained at the Art Students League, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts, all in New York. After closing his design studio in 1964, Peter began creating his characteristic paintings and graphic prints. Peter Max is noted for his undulating graphic designs in bright, vibrating colors. His style has greatly influenced commercial art. It is reminiscent of art nouveau and comic strip art, incorporating psychedelic colors in floral and celestial motifs.
From visionary pop artist of the 1960's, to master of dynamic Neo-Expressionism, Peter Max and his vibrant colors have become part of the fabric of contemporary American culture. In the 1960's Peter Max rose to youthful prominence with his now-famous "Cosmic '60s" style, a bold linear type of painting which employed Fauvist use of color and depicted transcendental themes.
According to Peter Max "If I didn't choose art, I would have become an astronomer." Peter Max became fascinated with astronomy while living in Israel, following a ten-year upbringing in Shanghai, China. "I became fascinated with the vast distances in space as well as the vast world within the atom," says Max. Peter Max revolutionized art of the 60’s just as the Beatles transformed the music of the decade. As his expressionistic style evolved, becoming more sensuous and painterly, Max’s unique symbolism and vibrant color palette have continued to inspire new generations of Americans throughout the decades.
Peter Max is a passionate environmentalist and defender of human and animal rights, often dedicating paintings and posters for these noteworthy causes. Peter Max has celebrated our nation's principles of freedom and democracy with his famous paintings of American icons of freedom including Lady Liberty and the American Flag.
In 1962 Peter Max started a small Manhattan arts studio with friend Tom Daly, aptly named "The Daly and Max Studio". Daly and Max were joined by friend and mentor Don Rubbo, and the three worked as a group on books and advertising. In 1963, Daly, Max and Rubbo did the illustration, design and color for Helga Sandburg's (the daughter of poet Carl Sandburg) children's book 'Joel and the Wild Goose.
Peter Max was commissioned by Riverside Records to create cover art for Meade Lux Lewis. The album art won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators in 1962. With the use of photographic images as elements of collage, Max organized the Bettman Panopticon exhibition utilizing the antique photo content of the Bettman archives. It was considered one of the most avant-garde exhibitions of the New York graphic arts scene. Peter Max's interest in astronomy led to his Cosmic 60s period by way of art posters. He appeared on the Tonight Show in 1968 and on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1969. Max's 1968 "LOVE" poster was emblematic of late 60s pop-culture iconography.
In the 1970s, Peter Max gave up his commercial pursuits and went into retreat to begin painting in earnest. Peter Max immersed himself in his art for several years, and was only induced to come out of retreat on occasion through special commissions by the Federal government agencies: the U.S. Border murals, the first 10¢ U.S. postage stamp, and projects for the Federal Energy Commission.
For July 4, 1976, Peter Max created a special installation and art book, Peter Max Paints America, to commemorate America's bicentennial. It was the year Max also began his annual July 4th tradition of painting the Statue of Liberty. In 1982, Max painted six Liberties on the White House lawn, and then personally helped to actualize the statue's restoration, which was completed in 1986.
Peter Max began a series of works called the Better World series, and created a painting called "I love the World," depicting an angel embracing the planet, inspired by his backstage experience at the Live Aid concert. in 1989, for the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, Max was asked to create world's largest rock-and-roll stage for the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
Soon after the festival, in October, 1989, Max unveiled his "40 Gorbys," a colorful homage to Mikhail Gorbachev. Prophetically, a few weeks later, communism fell in Eastern Europe and Peter Max was selected to receive a 7,000-pound section of the Berlin Wall, which was installed on the Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Intrepid Museum. Using a hammer and chisel, Peter Max carved a dove from within the stone and placed it on top of the wall to set it free.