This black and white Peter Max (1937-) drawing had fungal and acid invasions, staining, and old tape adhered to it, all of which caused discoloration. A series of three chemistry baths treated these issues and helped bring out the brilliant ink lines that can appear simple when done with the hand of someone talented.
Peter Max was born in Berlin but his family moved to China when he was still very young. They lived in a pagoda-style house amidst a Buddhist monastery, a Sikh temple and a Viennese cafe. From American comic books, radio broadcasts and cinema shows, young Max formed an impression of the land of Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, swing jazz, swashbucklers, freedom and creativity. Ten years later the family made what turned what would turn out to be a slow westerly migration that ended up in the New York City, taking 6 years, and including stops in Nepal, Israel, and Paris.
Max 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.
As the ’60s progressed, his photo collage style gave way to his “Cosmic ’60s” style, characterized by distinctive line work and bold Fauvistic color combinations. It became his signature style and is said to have developed as a spontaneous creative urge following a meeting with Swami Satchidananda, an Indian Yoga master who taught Max meditation and the spiritual teachings of the East.
His unique symbolism and vibrant color palette have continued to inspire new generations of Americans throughout the decades. He is also a passionate environmentalist and defender of human and animal rights, often dedicating paintings and posters for these noteworthy causes. His decorative designs are on a Boeing 777 Continental, Dale Earnhardt’s #3 Millennium race car, U.S. postage stamps and 235 U.S. border murals. He created two 155-foot murals for the U.S. Pavilion at the Seville World’s Fair in Spain, 12 postage stamps for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a 600-foot stage mural for Woodstock 2. He has also painted for five U.S. presidents, as well as the Beatles, Aerosmith, and the Rolling Stones.
After September 11th, 2001 Peter Max began a project by finishing 356 portraits of the firefighters that were lost in the attack. His portraits were then given to the victims’ families. In addition, from a special request from President George W. Bush, he recently created another 356 portraits for a firefighters’ memorial.
He loves to hear amazing facts about the universe and is as fascinated with numbers and mathematics as he is with visual phenomena.
“If I didn’t choose art, I would have become an astronomer. . . I [am] fascinated with the vast distances in space as well as the vast world within the atom.”