Monday, June 25, 2007
It Was 40 Years Ago Today…
…That Peter Blake designed the iconic cover art for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (above). Actually, it wasn’t exactly 40 years ago today that he did this, but he was born 75 years ago today. Sir Peter continues to bask in the memories of the 1960s and the glory days of Swinging London. As Austin Powers would say, “Yeah, Baby!”
Blake began working in a Pop Art style in the 1950s, years before the American Pop Artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. He first received public attention through his award-winning painting Self-Portrait With Badges from 1961 (above). Blake covers himself with blue denim, the official uniform of rebellious American youth at that time, and holds a magazine emblazoned with the name “Elvis” and featuring a photo of Elvis Presley with Ann-Margret, perhaps from their movie Viva Las Vegas. The badges covering his denim jacket bring in all different pieces of early 1960s popular culture and, oddly, resemble the “flair” that some chain restaurants require their waitpersons to wear in place of actual individuality and personality.
Blake also painted a fascinating series of illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, including “Well, this is grand!” said Alice (above). The 1960s were one long Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure for many people and Blake’s work aptly captures that unique cultural moment. The sense of fun and inclusiveness seen in works such as the Sgt. Pepper cover remain as fresh and innovative today as they did 40 years ago. Who among us has not spent an afternoon listening to some format of Sgt. Pepper and trying to pick out the faces on that cover?