Peter Max was born on October 19, 1937 in Berlin, Germany as Peter Max Finkelstein. In 1938, Max’s parents fled to escape the growing Nazi movement, and settled in Shanghai, China where they lived for the next ten years. In 1948, fearing the encroaching army of Mao Tse-tung, the family again fled, this time to Haifa, Israel where they lived for several years before spending several months in Paris, France and finally settling in New York, New York where at last Peter found his true home.
Max’s artistic talent was nurtured from a young age, first recognized with his crayon scribbles on a family trunk while living in his family’s five-story pagoda in Shanghai. His mother, a designer, encouraged his development with special tutors that spanned China, specialized tutoring in Israel, extensive exposure in France and formal training in New York where they settled when Max was sixteen.
In 1962, Max started a small Manhattan arts studio known as “The Daly & Max Studio,” with his friend Tom Daly and began his artistic career in graphic design. Max’s longtime interest in astronomy led to his self described “Cosmic ’60s” period and it has been said that had Max not become an artist, he would have been an astronomer. His art 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 7-up which propelled demand for a variety of his branded merchandise.
Max met and was enamored with the Swami Satchidananda Saraswati and invited him to New York in 1966 for a visit that turned into a permanent residence. The Swami became surrounded by many students who formed Integral Yoga International. Peter Max is credited with being the catalyst that brought Yoga to the United States in a modern and scientific, yet classical approach of Satchidananda Saraswati, who inspired cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, on his medical thesis. Well-known in New York for his message and example of peace and his loving service to humanity, the Yoga master was invited to open the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Max’s work is an indispensable guide for cultural literacy of the 1960´s, and his work commands a solid following worldwide and is consistently collected by the art world. Included among Max’s numerous accolades, recognition and commissions are: Appearance on the Tonight Show; featured on the cover of Life magazine; exhibition “The World of Peter Max,” which opened at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco; the 10-cent postage stamp to commemorate the Expo ’74 World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington; initiating the restoration of the Statue of Liberty with the help of Lee Iacocco. He 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. In 2000, Max designed the paint scheme Dale Earnhardt drove at the Winston all-star race, deviating from Earnhardt’s trademark black car. 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. He also created the 2003 Indy 500 program cover.
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.
Max has painted a ship for the Norwegian Cruise Lines as well as a Continental Airlines Boeing 777-200ER airplane. He has painted at least seven U.S. Presidents and many environmental themed artwork. He is an environmentalist as well as a supporter of animal rights.
Max works in multiple media including painting, drawing, etchings (including aquatint), collage, print making, sculpture, video and digital imagery. With paintings on exhibition in hundreds of museums and galleries worldwide, Peter Max and his vibrant colors have become part of the fabric of contemporary culture. Max has been successively called a Pop Icon, Neo Fauvist, Abstract Expressionist and the United States “Painter Laureate.”
Max lives in New York City and has two adult children, Adam Cosmo Max and Libra Astro Max.
CV Art and Frame was honored to host Peter Max in October 2016. Current’s Where’s Amy photographed and visited the event.