Pop Goes The Arts Club: Peter Blake
— The Arts Club, London

Installation view: Pop Goes The Arts Club, The Arts Club, London. Image: Kate Elliott.


Installation view: Pop Goes The Arts Club, The Arts Club, London. Image: Kate Elliott.

Pop Goes the Arts Club presented a mini-survey of paintings, found objects and collage artworks by Peter Blake, the President of The Arts Club and a long-running member. Highly inventive and influential, Blake is frequently described as the godfather of British Pop art. Among works on show at The Arts Club were his portraits of both Queen Elizabeth II, painted in 2012, and Meghan Markle, painted in 2018, as well as collage works from his Joseph Cornell’s Holiday series, his recent painted portraits series entitled “Girl with a Disney Tattoo,” and works featuring a long-time obsession of his, Marilyn Monroe.

At the core of Blake’s work is an ongoing fascination with popular culture and history, including music, film, art historical figures, the Royals and celebrities. Since the late 1950s and early 1960s, Blake has been one of Britain’s best-known Pop artists, as well as probably its most idiosyncratic. Throughout his practice Blake has defined a specifically British pop aesthetic on his own terms, related to American pop-artists such as Warhol or Lichtenstein, and his British peers such as Richard Hamilton, but also drawing on his own interests in folk art, Victoriana and counterculture, forming a highly distinctive visual language. It’s this ‘Blake’ aesthetic he also brought to such celebrated album covers as the Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Stop the Clocks by Oasis.

On show at The Arts Club was Blake’s Queen Elizabeth II, 2012, which was painted in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee for the cover of the Radio Times magazine. “I love the Queen,” Blake has said, “I like Philip too. He’s a great character and I’m very fond of Charles.” The Queen’s portrait was shown alongside Blake’s 2018 portrait of Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Sussex, painted for Vogue in celebration of the year Markle and Prince Harry were married. Also on show were six examples of Blake’s Joseph Cornell’s Holiday from a series of over 100 large and intricate collage works Blake made in a narrative homage to reclusive American artist Joseph Cornell, who loved Europe but never travelled to it in his lifetime. Blake posthumously takes Cornell to the sites he never saw in the flesh, including Lee Miller and Roland Penrose’s Farley Farm alongside the most famous surrealists, the focus of Arts Club’s selection.