About Peter Max

"My life's journey has been an odyssey through time and space, filled with vivid moments, abundant with color, dazzling with sights, and vibrant with euphonic sounds. These moments collectively create my story, not only of who I was but also of who I was to become - an artist living in New York City, where I have been fortunate to reach a global audience with my art and philosophy." - Peter Max



The Early Years

1937 

Peter Max is born in Berlin, Germany.



1938

Peter and his parents, Salla and Jacob, travel to Shanghai, China - a rich, living tapestry of ancient Asian culture, Europeans, and imported American media of comic books, jazz radio, and Hollywood movies.



1951

Peter’s fascination with the cosmos is stimulated when he discovers the wonders of astronomy.

He now has two passions: art and astronomy. Throughout his youth he embraces both as sources of inspiration. He retains them both–bringing cosmic elements into his art.



1953

Paris

En route to America, the family stops in Paris for 6 months, and Peter’s mother sends him to take sketch classes at the Louvre.

New York City

Peter Max arrives in New York City and marvels at the colossal-sized automobiles, the billboards of Broadway, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge.



1960-1970

1956

Art Students League & School of Visual Arts

Max attends the distinguished Art Students League and studies realism painting under the tutelage of Frank Reilly, who studied at the League himself, beside Norman Rockwell. After the League, Max becomes interested in the avant-garde and attends the progressive School of Visual Arts. 



1962

With art school friend, Tom Daly, Max starts a small Manhattan arts studio, which wins numerous awards for book cover illustrations and graphic design.

Max combines his realism and abstraction skills in a painting of blues pianist Meade Lux Lewis, for a Riverside Records album cover. It wins a gold Medal at the Society of Illustrators annual exhibition.



1963

Max creates the 'Bettmann Panopticon' exhibition at SVA's Visual Arts Gallery in New York City, with works by leading art directors and designers created from images of the Bettmann Archive. The exhibition celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Bettmann Archive, the renowned collection of 20th century historical imagery. 



1966

Max travels to Paris to consult on a film and meets Swami Satchidananda, a Yoga master, whose dynamic spiritual presence affects him profoundly.

Max invites him to visit New York, and helps him to found the Integral Yoga Institute. “The Swami and yoga taught me a whole new way to draw,” says Max. “It empowered me to feel the cosmic consciousness within, and to allow that to flow out of me into my art.”



1967

Max’s "Be In" poster inspires several hundred thousand hippies to gather in New York City’s Central Park, and immortalize the Summer of Love.



Max becomes a pop culture icon and appears on major TV shows, including The NBC Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where the set design features his poster art.




Max's art captured the spirit of the sixties and was cited by art critics as “the visual arts counterpart to the music of the Beatles.

"Max’s passion for inner and outer space fuse and give rise to his famous Cosmic ‘60s poster collection, which were seen everywhere from college dorms to corporate board rooms and recording studios.



Following the Beatles, Max appears on the ultimate TV showcase–The Ed Sullivan Show.

He draws live for a long segment on the show watched by millions. In kinetic motion, he often draws with both hands simultaneously, creating large, mirrored images on the famous set.



1969

Max appears on the cover of Life.

When the story was delayed for a few weeks because of events in Vietnam, Max went on holiday to Barbados with his family and forgot about it. Upon returning to the United States, Max's son, Adam, pointed at a newsstand displaying twenty-four of the Max Life covers and said, "Daddy, look–it's you!" Max promptly bought all twenty-four copies and was amazed to see the story ran eight pages long.



In Shanghai, I saw Life covers with five-star generals, and baseball and movie stars. I could never imagine that one day it would be me.

Peter Max



General Electric commissions Max to create a line of art clocks.

Over the next few years, Max’s art embellishes seventy-two product lines.



Max creates commemorative posters for the Apollo II Moon Landing.

Having a fascination for space and astronomy since he was a child, Max, along with the world, is awed and inspired as the first men land on the moon on July 20, 1969. He prints on his 'Apollo II Moon Landing - From the Moon' poster - "We see the Earth in its true light, as a whole and realize that 'We Are All One.'" - Meher Baba



1970

Max’s first solo museum exhibition, The World of Peter Max, opens at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.

It draws tens of thousands of visitors and as a result of its success, forty-six additional museum exhibitions are scheduled around the United States mounted by the Smithsonian Institute Exhibition Services.



Max’s magazine covers were ubiquitous, and in 1970 his art even adorned the cover of the New York City Yellow Pages (again in 1973 and 2001). Millions of telephone books were distributed in the New York metropolitan area, and Max could hardly walk down a street in Manhattan where someone wouldn’t recognize him and say, “Hey Max, I got your yellow pages.”



1971

Max withdraws from the public eye and takes a creative retreat to explore new directions in painting.

During his sixties period, he worked mainly in line, adding colors on the printing press or silk-screen. In his Realism period he worked in oils with small brushes. Now, he paints with acrylics and large brushes, even house-painting brushes, expressing himself with spontaneous, expressionistic brushstrokes.



1974

The First Environmental U.S. Postage Stamp

As Max’s poster art is associated with the spirit of ecology, the U.S. Postal Service commissions the artist to create the first ten-cent postage stamp commemorating Expo ’74 World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington. Max uses the line, “Preserve the Environment.”



1976

Max welcomes immigrants to America.

U.S. General Services asks Max to create 235 “Welcome to America” border murals, displayed at entry points between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico. The murals are seen by more than 260 million people a year and President Jimmy Carter holds simultaneous celebrations in each of the U.S. border towns at the unveiling. Soon after, Max and his family are welcomed to a White House celebration with the President and First Lady, Rosalynn Carter.



Peter Max Paints America is published.

With the artist in attendance, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presents Max’s book of paintings and collages to commemorate the United States’ Bicentennial Celebration at the White House to President Jerry Ford on behalf of his country to the United States.

When Max returns to NYC that evening from the White house celebration, he is inspired to paint the Statue of Liberty and sets into play an annual July 4th Statue of Liberty painting tradition. “I wanted to honor this amazing democracy that the Statue of Liberty symbolizes,” Max says. He has continued his Liberty painting tradition to this day.



Many of Max’s famous icons emerged during the 1970s: Umbrella Man, Sage with Cane, Dega Man and Zero Megalopolis.




1980-1990

Outside of my patriotic works in the ‘70s, I was in seclusion, just painting all of the time.

Peter Max


1981

President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan invite Max to the White House for Reagan’s first Fourth of July celebration as president.

Max paints six eight-foot tall Statue of Liberty paintings at the White House Rose Garden for the President, First Lady Nancy Reagan, and assembled guests and dignitaries. On completion of the sixth Liberty painting, Max invites President Reagan to the painting stage and offers him a brush, asking him to honor him with the final brushstroke–much to the President’s delight.



1985

Backstage at the Live-Aid Concert in Philadelphia, Max is so moved by the musicians’ charitable generosity that he draws a picture of an angel embracing the planet to capture the moment. He calls it I Love the World.



1986

Statue of Liberty Restoration

Max spearheads a campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty, and enrolls Lee Iacocca, Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, to become Chairman of the Liberty Renovation project. Funds are raised from Americans of all walks of life for Lady Liberty's renovation. "Peter Max was the spark that lit the torch that ignited the Statue of Liberty renovation," Mr. Iacocca said on the project's completion.The renovated Statue of Liberty is unveiled at a gala July 4th celebration for the Liberty Centennial on Governors Island and televised nationally with Peter Max as guest of honor. Inspired by the colors of the fireworks reflected on the statue’s face, Max paints eleven Liberty heads, continuing the tradition he began in 1976. One of the paintings, graces the July 4th U.S. News & World Report cover.



1987

No other artist has captured the essence of the Summer of Love like Peter Max. Consequently, on the twentieth anniversary of that monumental event, People magazine called on him to create a fold cover for their commemorative June 22 issue. Interwoven in Max's cosmic collage are '60s icons: the Beatles, Jerry Garcia, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Timothy Leary. 



1988

Max emerges from his secluded painting retreat and opens an expansive 40,000 square-foot studio/atelier adjacent to Lincoln Center in Manhattan. 



1990

Max is selected to receive a seven-thousand-pound section of the fallen Berlin Wall on board the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, on the Hudson River, NYC. Using hammer and chisel, he carves out the shape of a peace dove from the concrete wall, paints it and places it on top, symbolically giving it freedom. 



1991

A delegation of Russian officials, on behalf of Mikhail Gorbachev, invites Max to have a retrospective exhibition to tour Moscow and St. Petersburg. It opens at the Central Exhibition Hall of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad). It is the largest museum art exhibition opening in Russian history, drawing a crowd of 14,500 people on its opening day. A subsequent exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Fine Art draws an opening crowd of more than 10,000 people. 



1992

The Clinton inauguration committee asks Max to create a commemorative poster for Bill Clinton's 1993 Presidential Inauguration. Max is so inspired that he creates three posters and a one-hundred portrait installation, "100 Clintons", which is unveiled on the Larry King CNN Presidential Special. 



1994

Max is named Official Artist for soccer's World Cup USA and his colorful poster is seen on TV by more than 2 billion people. 



1999

Max is named Official Artist for soccer's World Cup USA and his colorful poster is seen on TV by more than 2 billion people.



The New Millenium

2000

Continental Airlines unveils Max's painted fuselage of its new Boeing 777 super jet. Max's plane is also designated as NYC's Millennium Plane by NYC mayor, Rudy Giuliani. 



2001

In response to September 11, Max creates six posters commemorating the spirit of America, with proceeds benefiting 9/11 charities. 



2005

Max paints Ringo Starr's Baldwin piano to benefit the former Beatle's charitable efforts for MusicCares, benefitting musicians in need of medical care. 



2013

Norwegian Cruise Lines commissions Max to paint the hull of its Breakaway ship, the largest cruise ship to make New York City its home port. It's the first time Norwegian has a well-known artist paint hull artwork for one of its ships. 



2015

For the Frank Sinatra Centennial, Max paints Sinatra portraits and unveils them at his NYC studio with Sinatra’s daughter Nancy, grand daughter Amanda, and other celebrity guests. A selection are shown at the GRAMMY Museum® exhibition, “Sinatra: An American Icon,” at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.



The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum asks Peter to create posters and program cover art for it's 30th annual induction ceremony. 



I've always had great mentors in my life: my parents, who nurtured my creativity; my nanny in China, who taught me how to hold and use a brush; the German scientist that I met in the mountains near Tibet, who first inspired my interest in space; Professor Hunick, who taught me to paint with the perception of color; Frank Reilly, my instructor at the Art Students League, who taught me to paint in the discipline of realism; and Swami Satchidanands, the renowned Yoga master, who taught me the art of letting go and being in the flow.

Peter Max