The bright, flamboyant artwork of Peter Max serves as a visual shorthand for the exciting social upheaval and unabashed positivity of the late 1960s. Born in Germany in 1937, Max had a multicultural upbringing in China, Tibet, Israel, France, and the United States. His parents encouraged artistic interests, and Max was influenced by a range of aesthetics—from comic books and jazz to astronomy and Chinese art.
Though Max began his career by experimenting with Impressionistic painting styles and mixed-media collage, his poster designs of the late 1960s are what made him famous, identifiable by their brilliant colors and fanciful graphic characters. Max often pushed the limits of a four-color press with his “split fountain” method, blending colors as posters were being printed. In 1967, a reviewer for the "Village Voice" asserted that “Peter Max’s posters show him to be a visionary fascinated by time, space and evolution.”
Max created much of the iconography for the Cultural Revolution, combining the bold spirit of psychedelia, environmental advocacy, and free love. His work was so appealing, in fact, that Max’s designs were quickly licensed by some of the very corporations and institutions the counterculture was railing against, beginning in 1968 with a line of General Electric clocks. Max would eventually design a U.S. postage stamp, a 7-UP campaign, and a Boeing 777 for Continental Airlines, to name but a very few of his most famous commissions.