Peter Max

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Peter Max
Born Peter Max Finkelstein
(1937-10-19) October 19, 1937 (age 78)
Berlin, Germany
Nationality American (United States)
Education Art Students League of New York
Known for Painting, pop art
Notable work LOVE (1968)
Movement Pop art
Spouse(s) Mary Max

Peter Max (born Peter Max Finkelstein, October 19, 1937) is a German-born American illustrator and graphic artist, known for the use of psychedelic shapes and color palettes as well as spectra in his work. At first, works in this style appeared on posters and were seen on the walls of college dorms 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. In September 1969, Max appeared on the cover of Life magazine, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Ed Sullivan Show.[1]



In 1938, Max's parents fled Berlin, Germany, his place of birth, to escape the fomenting Nazi movement, settling in Shanghai, China, where they lived for the next ten years. In 1948, the family moved to Haifa, Israel where they lived for several years. From Israel, the family continued moving westward and stopped in Paris for several months—an experience that Max said greatly influenced his appreciation for art.

The 1950s[edit]

Max and his parents first settled in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in 1953 where he attended Lafayette High School (New York City), where he was classmates with future actor Paul Sorvino. In 1956, Max began his formal art training at the Art Students League of New York in Manhattan, studying anatomy, figure drawing and composition under Frank J. Reilly who had studied at the League alongside Norman Rockwell.[1]

The 1960s[edit]

In 1962, Max started a small Manhattan arts studio known as "The Daly & Max Studio," with friend Tom Daly. Daly and Max were joined by friend and mentor Don Rubbo, and the three worked as a group on books and advertising for which they received industry recognition. Much of their work incorporated antique photographic images as elements of collage. Max's interest in astronomy contributed to his self described "Cosmic '60s" period, which featured what became identified as psychedelic, counter culture imagery. Max's art was popularized nationally through TV commercials such as his 1968 "un cola" ad for the soft drink 7-Up which helped drive sales of his art posters and other merchandise.[2] He appeared on The Tonight Show on August 15, 1968.[3] He was featured on the cover of Life magazine's September 5, 1969 edition under with the heading "Peter Max: Portrait of the artist as a very rich man."[4]

The 1970s[edit]

U.S. postage stamp featuring Max's artwork commemorating Expo '74

In 1970, many of Max's products and posters were featured in the exhibition "The World of Peter Max," which opened at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.[5] The United States Postal Service commissioned Max to create the 10-cent postage stamp to commemorate the Expo '74 World's Fair in Spokane, Washington, and Max drew a colorful psychedelic scene with a "Cosmic Jumper" and a "Smiling Sage" against a backdrop of a cloud, sun rays and a ship at sea on the theme of "Preserve the Environment."[6] July 4, 1976, Max began his Statue of Liberty series leading to his efforts with Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca to help in the restoration of the statue.[7]

In 1976, Peter Max Paints America were commissioned by the ASEA of Sweden. The book project commemorated the United States Bicentennial and included the following foreword: "Peter Max Paints America is based on works of art commissioned by ASEA of Sweden on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America, in sincere recognition of the historic bonds of friendship between the people of Sweden and the people of the United States, recalling that Sweden was one of the first countries to extend its hand in friendship to the new nation."[8]

The 1980s to present[edit]

One of Max's art galleries, at The Forum Shops at Caesars in 2008

Max has been the official artist for many major events, including the 1994 World Cup, the Grammy Awards, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Super Bowl and others.[1] In 2000, Max designed the paint scheme Dale Earnhardt drove at the Winston all-star race, deviating from Earnhardt's trademark black car.[9] He was also the Official Artist of New York City's 2000 Subway Series, the World Series of Major League Baseball, between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.[10]

Max first painted Taylor Swift’s portrait as a gift to the singer for her Grammy-winning album Fearless & Speak Now, and has recently painted new portraits of Taylor Swift to commemorate her worldwide success.[11]

Max is on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service.[12]

In 1990, Max purchased a collection of Chevrolet Corvettes for an intended art project,[13] but never used them and let them rot in a series of garages.[14]

In 1994, he designed the artwork for progressive rock band Yes's fourteenth studio album, Talk.

In 2012, he was chosen to paint the hull art of the New York themed ship Norwegian Breakaway by Norwegian Cruise Line[15]


Max's art work was first identified as having been a popular part of the counter culture and psychedelic movements in graphic design during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is known for using bursts of color, often containing much or all of the visible spectrum. His work was both influenced by, as well as widely imitated by, others in the field of commercial illustration, such as Heinz Edelmann. Max's repeated claims, varying in detail, to have worked on "Yellow Submarine" have been denied by the production team.[16]

Max works in multiple media including painting, drawing, etchings (including aquatint), collage, print making, sculpture, video and digital imagery. He also includes "mass media" as being another "canvas" for his creative expression.[1] Max often uses American icons and symbols in his artwork. He has created paintings of presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush in addition to his 100 Clintons—a multiple portrait installation. He often features images of celebrities, politicians, athletes and sporting events and other pop culture subjects in his artwork.[1]

One of Continental Airlines' Boeing 777-200ER aircraft (registered N77014) sported a livery designed by Max.[17]

His artwork was featured on CBS's The Early Show where his "44 Obamas," commemorating Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was debuted.[18]

Harper Collins in 2013 published a book of the artist's memoirs and thoughts called The Universe of Peter Max. In it, he relates stories of his life as well as descriptions and thoughts surrounding of some of his artwork.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Max is an environmentalist, vegan and defender of human and animal rights.[20][21]

In 2002, Max offered to provide a life of green fields for Cinci Freedom, a cow that escaped from an Ohio slaughterhouse. The cow jumped over a six-foot fence while the slaughterhouse workers were on break and she eluded capture for eleven days. Max donated $180,000 worth of his art to benefit the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to ensure the cow a long life of peace at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York.[22]

Max lives in New York City and has two adult children, Adam Cosmo Max and Libra Astro Max.


  1. ^ a b c d e Riley II, Charles A. (2002). The Art of Peter Max (1st ed.). Abrams, New York. pp. 228–235. ISBN 0-8109-3270-9. 
  2. ^ "''7-Up video''". Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  3. ^ "Television Log," Long Beach (CA) Press Telegram, 15 August 1968.
  4. ^ 1969 June 6 Life Magazine - The Moon - Edward Villella. "''Life Magazine Cover''". Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  5. ^ ''The World of Peter Max exhibition''. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  6. ^ and Dick Sine (1974-04-18). "''Expo 74 Postage Stamp''". Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  7. ^ "''Statue of Liberty series''". 2010-11-12. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  8. ^ Zurbel, Victor (1976). Peter Max Paints America (1st ed.). Acropolis Books Ltd., New York. p. 1. ISBN 0-87491-042-0. 
  9. ^ "Dale Earnhardt and Peter Max Combine for Colorful Weekend". 
  11. ^ "It’s Taylor Swift in a New Pop-Art Portrait". 
  12. ^ "Jefferson Awards". Jefferson Awards. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Forgotten Corvette collection emerges from the dust after 25 years". Yahoo Autos. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Long Forgotten Corvette Collection Rediscovered". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Peter Max On NORWEGIAN BREAKAWAY". 
  16. ^ Hieronimus, Robert R. "Inside the Yellow Submarine". Krause Publications, 2002. Pgs 81-90.
  17. ^ "The Max Collector". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  18. ^ "Painter Peter Max At Work". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Max, Peter (2013). The Universe of Peter Max. United States: Harper Design. ASIN B007679EDY. 
  20. ^ Gross, Eric. "Peter Max Receives Preserve Putnam Award". Putnam County Courier. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Allen, Jolia. "One on One With Peter Max". Vegetarian Times. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  22. ^ "Peter Max - Award Winner 2002". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 

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