Sunday, November 15, 2009


Bob Peak started out in the 1950s as just one of many young, capable illustrators.

But in the 1960s, Peak caught fire and began turning out radically different work. His line work had roots in the Viennese Secessionist movement (particularly Schiele and Klimt) and in the great Rene Bouche, but Peak's hot, fluorescent color combinations were unprecedented; his extreme angles, cinematic style, and space age dynamism were blazingly original.

Nobody else was doing work like this at the time.

Peak's work was "radical" in the truest sense of the word (defined as "going to the root or source.") Note in the following unpublished picture how Peak is not merely fine tuning details-- instead, he goes all the way back to the simplest most fundamental questions of design, composition and color and comes up with a striking result.

Literally, a "revolution" occurs when something completes a full cycle and returns to its starting place.

Peak's salad days in the 1960s were a remarkable, vibrant period, but he was too hot not to cool down. As Peak matured, he remained commercially successful but his innovations came fewer and farther between. He had a lucrative career making movie posters that seem to me to be repetitive and uninspired, the type of art that might be sold on vacation cruise ships.

Even if Peak's innovative period was not sustainable, there was a moment when he found the voice for his time and place. That was enough to establish a legacy that can't be taken away.