Peter Max life and biography

Peter Max picture, image, poster

Peter Max biography

Date of birth : 1937-10-19
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Berlin, Germany
Nationality : German-American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-07-23
Credited as : Artist in pop art culture, graphic designer, co-owner of the Daly-Max Studio

33 votes so far

Peter Max, born Peter Max Finkelstein, October 19, 1937 in Berlin, Germany is a German-born American artist best known for his iconic art style in the 1960s. At first, his “Cosmic 60s” art, as it came to be known, appeared on posters and were seen on the walls of college dorms all across America. Max then became fascinated with new printing techniques that allowed for four-color reproduction on product merchandise. Following his success with a line of art clocks for General Electric, Max’s art was licensed by 72 corporations and he had become a household name. In September 1969 Max appeared on the cover of Life Magazine with an eight-page feature article as well as the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Ed Sullivan Show.


The name Peter Max has become synonymous with the pop art culture that flourished during the 1960's and early 1970's. A highly visible and commercial artist during those years, Max's distinctive art work was seen on everything from posters to postage stamps, stationery to shower curtains, and fabric to furniture. Where there was no medium for his work, he created one.

Born in Berlin in 1939, Max and his family escaped Nazi Germany and fled to the Orient, immigrating to the United States in 1953. Exposed to the paintings of Buddhist monks as a child, Max continued to exhibit a strong fascination with Eastern mysticism throughout his career. He studied the teachings of Eastern mystics and began practicing yoga under Swami Satchidananda, developing a discipline that helped inform and mold his art work as well as many of his personal convictions in life. As he told Publishers Weekly: "What fascinates and drives me is that man and his acts are insignificant, microscopic in terms of the continual evolution of the universe . . . . "

A pop culture hero, Max proved that he was not only a talented and versatile artist but a successful businessman as well. After studying commercial art at various schools, he opened the Daly-Max Studio in 1962 with his partner Tom Daly. This venture into the graphic arts business created contacts with advertising agencies up and down Madison Avenue. Within two years the firm won over sixty awards for illustrations and typography. By the time he was thirty, Max was running a million-dollar-a-year enterprise. He employed over thirty artists and also owned 50 percent of five other companies.

Max's use of crayon or felt pen in his early works created designs that were vibrant, bright, and psychedelic in nature. He used a combination of various techniques, including art nouveau, op, and pop. One especially popular technique was a montage of many forms repeated over and over, giving the illusion of viewing through a kaleidoscope. Known as "panopticon," it was used by Max in many of his posters.

By 1968 his posters were sold nationwide, as well as in Japan and European countries. Novelty shops, bookstores, and department stores carried the brightly colored smiles, stars, flowers, butterflies, rainbows, and overall cosmic designs that became Peter Max trademarks. Through a commission with the Metro Transit Advertising Company, his posters were seen by millions of mass-transit passengers on buses, streetcars, and subways in ten major American cities.

In the early 1970's, as major publishing companies recognized Max's market potential, his art work appeared in book form along with a series of children's books about lands of various colors. At this same time, CBC-TV presented a television special, "Fifth Dimension of the Cosmic World of Peter Max."

The U.S. Government commissioned Max twice--once to do a ten-cent stamp supporting the "Preserve the Environment" theme for Expo 1974 and once to do seven murals for display at U.S. border checkpoints. Initially, the U.S. Customs Service felt the murals represented a fantasy world too closely linked with the drug culture. It was finally President Carter's verbal admiration for Max's work that prompted their distribution. Consequently, these welcoming signs were viewed by millions of people as they entered America.

Max has changed his art style considerably since the bright, bold era of the 1960's. The clean, spare lines of his earlier work have become looser, his forms more blurry. Although he still works with the brilliant colors once so popular, he now blends them with more delicate colors like sepia, gray, and peach. After painting for what he describes as "U-25" (people under twenty-five), Max views the 1980's as a period of actualization for that age group. What that means in terms of his own work, he won't predict. As he told Newsweek: "I just want to move on from what I'm doing now, just as I've moved through my other styles."


Family: Born October 19, 1939, in Berlin, Germany; came to United States, 1953; son of Jacob (a pearl merchant) and Salla (Zeisel) Finkelstein; married Elizabeth Ann Nance, May 1, 1963 (divorced); children: Adam Cosmo, Libra Astro (daughter). Education: Attended Art Students League, Pratt Institute, and School of Visual Arts. Addresses: Office: Peter Max Enterprises, 118 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10024.


Awards from American Institute of Graphic Arts, Society of Illustrators, and International Poster Competition of Poland; more than sixty awards for graphic design.


Artist, graphic designer, and entrepreneur. Daly-Max Studio (graphic arts studio), New York City, co-owner and director, 1962-65; Peter Max Posters (printers), New York City, co-owner and designer, beginning in 1967. President of Peter Max Enterprises, New York City, beginning in 1967. Recipient of numerous commissions, including Tin Lizzie Steak House interior, Manhattan, NY, 1967; Metro Transit Advertising Co., New York City, series of posters for buses and subways in ten U.S. cities, 1968; U.S. postage stamp "Cosmic Jumper, " 1974; series of seven murals for 135 U.S. border stations, 1976. Work appeared in numerous exhibits, including "The World of Peter Max, " M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA, and other U.S. cities, 1970; five-year retrospective, London Arts Gallery, 1970; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1972-74; nationwide touring retrospective, 1974; Riverside Gallery, Shreveport, LA; Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and more than forty one-man shows.


* (With Swami Satchidananda) God, Morrow, 1970.
* (With Satchidananda) Love, Morrow, 1970.
* The Peter Max Land of Blue (juvenile), F. Watts, 1970.
* The Peter Max Land of Red (juvenile), F. Watts, 1970.
* The Peter Max Land of Yellow (juvenile), F. Watts, 1970.
* (With Satchidananda) Peace, Morrow, 1970.
* Peter Max Poster Book, Crown, 1970.
* (With Satchidananda) Thought, Morrow, 1970.
* (With Ronwen Vathsala Proust) The Peter Max New Age Organic Vegetarian Cookbook, Pyramid Communications, 1971.
* Peter Max Superposter Book, Crown, 1971.
* Meditations, McGraw, 1972.
* (With Betty Stall) The Peter Max Book of Crochet, Pyramid Communications, 1972.
* (With Susan Sommers Winer) The Peter Max Book of Needlepoint, Pyramid Communications, 1972.
* Peter Max Paints America, edited by Victor Zurbel, Acropolis Books, 1976.


* Abby Gail Kirsch and Sandra Bangilsdorf Klein, Teen Cuisine: A Beginner's Guide to French Cooking (juvenile), Parents Magazine Press, 1969.

Contributor of illustrations to newspapers.

Read more

Please read our privacy policy. Page generated in 0.035s