To the young adults of the late 60s, Peter Max’s art was as significant visually as the music of The Beatles was acoustically. His images were omnipresent on posters, album covers, ads, clothing and more. His brightly colored style with the rounded letters, comic strip-like figures and cosmic constellations were a major influence on all manner of graphic design, print art and cartoons of the time. His designs were licensed out to more than 70 corporations, from General Electric to Burlington Mills Socks, generating millions of dollars in sales. To this day, Peter Max has a huge following. His art graces a Boeing 777 for Continental Airlines, and a Norwegian cruise liner was launched in the spring of 2013 that bears his art and signature prominently on its hull. On my recent visit to his studio in Manhattan, I discovered a gorgeous Taylor Swift painting and his new Marilyn Monroe series, which I fell in love with at first sight. Currently, a wonderful solo exhibit of Peter Max’s work is being presented at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, Long Island.
Peter had a fascinating childhood. Born in Germany, he grew up in Shanghai in a beautiful pagoda house, situated between a Buddhist monastery and a Sikh temple. The sights, sounds and scents of the East filled his young mind with an explosion of colors and cacophony of sounds: parades, festivities and fireworks, images of deities, tigers, kites and floating dragons, chanting monks, shouting street vendors, the jazz music his father so loved, as well as the comic books and movies from the U.S. – these were things young Peter never tired of. Peter’s mother always encouraged his creative endeavors. His parents supported his studies of art and astronomy in China, Israel, France and America, until Peter completed his training as a fine artist at the Art Students League of New York.
Successful from the start, Peter’s first commission was an album cover for pianist and composer Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis, which won that year’s annual Society of Illustrators Award. Innumerable commissions and awards followed in a long and successful career. “I am a very lucky man. I can do what I love every day. I meet people that are interesting and that I admire – presidents, musicians and other artists.” I asked Peter what he enjoyed doing the most, and what his favorite place was to visit. The self-proclaimed yogi, who employees a DJ in his art studio, replied, “I like doing what I am doing at the moment. Right now I am enjoying my conversation with you, and my favorite place to be is where I am at, in this very moment, in the here and now.”
A solo exhibit of Peter Max’s work is on display at the Nassau County Museum of Art until Feb. 23, 2014. On Sunday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m., the artist will be at the museum for a conversation with art historian and author Charles A. Riley II, PhD. The artist will be signing merchandise purchased at the museum shop. Register at www.nassaumuseum.org/events.
Nassau County Museum of Art
One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor, NY 11576 | 516.484.9338
For more information on the artist or to purchase posters, visit