Peter Max was one of the most iconic artists of the 1960s, and his vibrant paintings have continued to light up the art world for decades. The night sky is one of the greatest influences on Max’s distinctive cosmic style. Max spent his childhood in different countries around the world before arriving in America at age 16, and his art reflects the diversity of his experiences. But red, white and blue have a special place on Max’s painting pallet. In much of his work, including this week’s cover, Max uses his bold colors to showcase his patriotism. Over the years, Max has painted for six U.S. presidents and his artwork has been showcased at presidential libraries and U.S. embassies. He was also the official artist of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team as well as for five Super Bowls, the World Series, the U.S. Open, the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby and for other events. Max has also painted the Statue of Liberty every year since 2000. His artistic roots may come from across the globe, but Peter Max is a true American artist.
When did you develop your interest in the stars?
At age 11, while growing up in Shanghai, I took a trip with my parents to the mountains of western China, near the border of Tibet. There, one night, 10,000 feet high under a blanket of stars, I met a man who was a scientist and astronomer. He imparted to me astounding facts about our solar system, galaxy and universe. I became so excited that I couldn’t sleep the entire evening. Then, several years later, when we emigrated to Israel, my passion for space was once again ignited and my mother arranged for me to sit in on an astronomy class at the Technion—Israeli Institute of Technology. After moving to America, in my senior year at Lafayette High School, I was planning to study astronomy at college, but I took a summer course at the Art Student’s League, and felt a stronger desire to become an artist, so I continued my studies there. Then, in the sixties, when President Kennedy announced his goal to land a man on the moon within the decade, my passion for space was once again ignited and later found its way in my Cosmic ‘60s art, which was a celebration of outer space and “inner space.”
What do you hope people feel when they look at the cover? What is it supposed to represent?
I hope people feel an affinity with my colors and images, which often depict peace, symmetry, harmonious color blends, and serenity. The cover piece depicts two ladies who are Hamptons chic, at one with the beautiful nature of the Hamptons and ready for a July 4th celebration.
What have you most enjoyed about being an artist?
I love to paint and see my colorful brushstrokes and imagery emerge on canvas. Sometimes I am as surprised as a person standing next to me, as I often come to a blank canvas with a blank mind and just allow my work to flow through me. Of course, I first had to work hard on developing the skills and disciplines to allow this flow to occur. I also love the wonderful commissions I have had to paint portraits of rock stars, movie stars, presidents, sports icons, etc. It’s been an honor to paint them and a thrill to hang out with them.
Who were the biggest influences on you as an artist when you first started?
I loved the realists like John Singer Sargent and even Norman Rockwell, who was a classmate to Frank Riley, my teacher at the Art Student’s League. I was also inspired by Art Nouveau, surrealism and expressionism, and especially by the Fauvists like Matisse, Vlaminck and Kandinsky.
View more of Peter Max’s art at petermax.com.