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Peter Max: An American Artist

He captured the essence of the '60s with his bold, psychedelic paintings — and he's still hard at work

spinner image Artist Peter Max in his Studio
Peter Max, 79, continues to paint America in his bold, vibrant style.
Courtesy of Peter Max Studio

He has painted popes, presidents, Beatles and American heroes. His color-blasted, kinetic images have been expanded to 40,000 square feet to cover the hull of a Norwegian cruise ship and shrunk to the size of a postage stamp (for an actual 1974 U.S. Postal Service 10-cent stamp). He has worked on sections of the broken Berlin Wall and at teeming Super Bowl stadiums. He has been praised on the covers of Time, Life, Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine, and he has been famous since the 1960s, a decade he defined perhaps better than any other visual artist of the time.

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Yes, here he is, the act you've known for all these years, Peter Max — now 79 and working harder than ever, evidence of which is the beautiful Summer of Love commemorative cover wrap AARP The Magazine commissioned for its August/September 2017 issue.

"Some of my favorite musicians and songs are from the era," he says. "Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Dead, Zeppelin, the Beatles. I paint to this music all of the time. I stay busy, and it feels good."

Max was born in Berlin and raised in China, Israel and Brooklyn, but he is an American artist ("America is the land of creativity," he says), and like a true American, he doesn't mind combining art and commerce under the right circumstances.

He has done his share of work for big corporate clients, including NASCAR and Coca-Cola, and he'll consider projects that appeal to him with their energy, usefulness, beauty and benefit, he says. He is a vegan, a meditator, a yogi, and a longtime environmentalist and defender of human and animal rights.

Max chose to pull back from the glare of celebrity during the '70s but has since returned to the limelight — creating, for example, posters and portraits of all 356 firefighters who perished in the September 11 attacks. He has been the subject of 40 museum exhibitions worldwide and says he travels "almost every weekend to gallery shows across the country, meeting my fans and dedicating my works to collectors."

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