Sir Peter Blake, R.A.
- Sir Peter Blake, R.A.
- Some of the Things I Like Best About Britain
- signed and dated 1969
- pen, ink and collage
- 33 by 48cm.; 13 by 19in.
Bristol, City Art Gallery, Peter Blake, 17th November-13th December 1969, no.136, p.41.
'He finds human warmth where others find only clichés and exploitation.' (Robert Melville quoted in the introduction to Peter Blake, exh. cat., Bristol City Art Gallery, 1969, p.5).
The present collage was executed in 1969, at the end of a decade of great success for Peter Blake. Two years earlier in 1967, Blake had been commissioned to produce the cover for The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The album cover was Blake's first artwork to be intentionally reproduced on a massive scale, and the great success of the album led to a period of high demand for his work. The late 60s was also a time of personal change for Blake. In November 1968 his wife, Jann Haworth gave birth to their first daughter, Liberty, and a year later the family moved from London to a converted railway station in Wellow, Avon.
It is interesting to consider the very personal nature and home-made appearance of the present work in the context of Blake's recent success with the mass-media. As the title suggests, Blake has made a collage of his favourite things about Britain. He presents postcards, photos and ticket stubs alongside hand-written lists of objects, people and places, historical and contemporary, personal and public, which stand for Blake in 1969. The very first inclusions on Blake's hand-written list in the upper left corner of the collage are the members of his new family, which read: 'My Wife – Jann, My Baby: Juliette Liberty, My Family, and Janns Family.' He further celebrates his new-found fatherhood in the photograph of Jann and the new-born Liberty which appears amongst the lattice-work in the lower right corner of the collage. When compared with the subject matter of The Beatles' album cover: a gathering of internationally recognised iconic figures, this focus on Blake's new family goes to show what an incredibly private, personal and quintessentially British work this is.
Blake's insertions of 'The Tate (sometimes)' and 'The Beatles (as people)' amongst his hand-written notes surprise with their honesty and subjectivity. Other inclusions such as 'Newcastle Brown Ale', 'Buckingham Palace' and 'QPR, when Bobby Keetch is playing', and pieces of the collage such as the ticket stub for the wrestling match at the Royal Albert Hall may seem trivial, but they are the seemingly insignificant details which cohere to form the full picture of the man. Lawrence Alloway summarised Blake's method of personalising and appropriating popular culture to his own ends in the introduction to an exhibition at the ICA in 1960. 'His attitude to the mass media is neither theoretical nor primitivistic; his art is a natural record of 'people I like' mounted in forms that combine the intimacy of tackboards with the impact of public signs... Blake works as a fan.' (Peter Blake, exh. cat., Bristol City Art Gallery, 1969, p.17).
Some of the Things I Like Best About Britain is a rare presentation of the hoarded matter and immediate thoughts of Peter Blake, gathered together on the kind of pin-board one could imagine in a typical British home. As Roger Coleman commented in 1956, 'Very often Blake's pictures are littered with the small objects of our urban civilisation, the things that pass through our hands a dozen times daily... the world of the throwaway object. Blake transforms these things into images of the most compelling sort so that we look at them a little harder next time just to see they are as real as he makes them.' (Roger Coleman, Ark 18, Autumn 1956, p.61).