Top 10 Things You Should Know About Peter Max
1. Peter Max grew up a world traveler. Born in 1937, Max’s family fled Berlin in 1938 to avoid Nazi persecution. His family lived in Shanghai near a Buddhist monastery until the artist was 10. Max and his parents travelled across China, spending some time in Tibet, before being forced to flee to Israel as Mao Tse-Tung’s army advanced on Shanghai. On the way to the newly formed Jewish state, the family spent some time in India and Africa. In 1953, Max’s family immigrated to America after spending 6 months in Paris.
2. Synesthesia is defined as the subjective experiencing of one sense in the place of another. For example, a synesthetic might claim to see sounds, or taste words. Peter Max has had synesthetic experiences his entire life, “hearing” colors and “seeing” music. Through his synesthesia, Max directly conveys his love of music (especially jazz) through his paintings.
3. Peter Max may (or may not) be responsible for the art style in the Beatle’s film, Yellow Submarine. Max has claimed that the film’s producer, Al Brodax, aggressively courted him to handle art direction for the film, reportedly offering him $2.25 million for the job, an offer which the artist turned down because of family commitments. Brodax maintains that Max was never involved in the production despite Max’s claims to the contrary.
4. In 1993, Peter Max was one of a number of artist commissioned by NBC to create variations on their famous peacock logo. Max’s animated bump for the network ran throughout the 1990’s. It can be seen here.
5. He is a vegan, environmentalist, and outspoken advocate for human and animal rights. In 2009, Max and his wife, Mary, received the Preserve Putnam Award in recognition of their dedication to animal rights. In 2002, the artist was moved when he heard a story of a cow that escaped a slaughterhouse in Cincinnati and was effectively on the lam. Moved to tears, Max quickly travelled to Ohio to negotiate with the farmer to ‘adopt’ the animal, who he affectionately named Cindy Woo.
6. Peter Max owns 36 vintage Corvettes that are gathering dust in a basement in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Apparently, while at an auto show in the early 90’s, Max saw the collection and impulsively purchased the cars with the plan of painting them in psychedelic colors and debuting them in a huge PR event. The artist still claims he will go through with this project, but, seeing as how the cars have been in their current home for the past 25 years, this seems a bit unlikely.
7. Starting in 1976, the year of the United States’ bicentennial, Max began work on one of his best known series, painting dozens of works of the Statue of Liberty. When Lee Iococca, then CEO of Chrysler Corp., saw Max’s Liberty series, he immediately saw the potential to use the paintings and the image for the campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty. Many still likely recognize Max’s work primarily from the campaign to save Lady Liberty. Max still paints the Statue every Fourth of July.
8. Peter Max’s art continues to influence today’s fashion. American Apparel recently started a product line, Neo Max, feature his artwork and Max-influenced designs.
9. Max is a long-time practitioner of yoga after meeting and practicing with famed yogi Swami Satchidananda. He credits his practice as greatly influencing his “Cosmic ’60’s” art style, with its transcendental, psychedelic imagery. The Swami also introduced him to a vegetarian diet.
10. Peter Max has never been shy about name-dropping his roster of celebrity friends. Max’s pals have included Beatles and presidents. He and George Harrison bonded over their interest in yoga, and he claims to be in frequent contact with Ringo Starr. Ronald Reagan (who Max affectionately called “Ronnie”) was a huge fan, owning 42 of the artist’s paintings before even running for governor, upgrading his collection to over 80 works before moving into the Oval Office. Max was commissioned to create the inaugural posters for Bill Clinton’s 1992 term.
Featured Image: Peter Max / Photo: Brad Trent