Sir Peter Blake, R.A. - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, June 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Meyer-Ellinger, Frankfurt
    Phillips, London, 20th Century British and Irish Art, 21 November 2000, lot 134
    Waddington Custot Galleries, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002

  • Exhibited

    London, Waddington Galleries Ltd. and Tooth Gallery, Peter Blake: Souvenirs and Samples, 26 April-21 May 1977, no. 58
    London, Tate Gallery, Peter Blake, 9 February-30 March 1983, no. 65

  • Literature

    Peter Blake: Souvenirs and Samples, exh. cat., Waddington and Tooth Galleries, London, 1977, no. 58, n.p. (illustrated, in an incomplete state)
    M. Compton, Peter Blake, London, 1983, p. 23 and p. 94 (illustrated, in both states)
    C. Gruenberg, L. Sillars, eds., Peter Blake: A Retrospective, London, 2007, p. 175 (illustrated)
    M. Livingstone, Peter Blake: One Man Show, Farnham, 2009, p. 102 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Blanche Neige and Bet Noir, combines the appearance of vintage posters and painted advertisements with a sophisticated formalism to address themes of stigma and intolerance. By employing photographs as sources and using a free hand technique along with collage, Peter Blake creates portraits of imaginary sitters that are extremely lifelike. He serendipitously taps into a popular nostalgic universe of fantasy while simultaneously addressing taboo subjects within society and reality. This work was painted while the artist was working on a series featuring wrestlers. The two figures in this work represent a fictional female wrestling tag-team.

    Blake explains that ‘the fact that I am part graphic designer enables me to do things that a pure painter would be ashamed to do. In a way, that is my branch of Pop art.’ (Peter Blake and Natalie Rudd, Peter Blake: About Collage, 2001, p. 11). Blake’s passion for Pop art and collage transforms into a way of thinking, an attitude towards visual culture - and in more general terms - towards reality. The textural and figural elements of the work at first appear to address the whimsical theme of Snow White, a motif that has remained a permanent fixture in Blake’s oeuvre, even appearing on what is undoubtedly his most famous work: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) album cover. Yet, rising from the background a more sinister and sober theme becomes evident. Snow White is a fictional character that is just as easily associated with fairy tales as it is with a racially stereotypical discourse, for example the 1943 film adaptation by Warner Brothers titled Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs. Moreover, the title of the work could be interpreted as a play on words for the French term bête noire meaning an anathema or something someone really dislikes. These elements, combined with the fact that the figures are wrestlers, suggests a kind of struggle against a greater social concept. In this manner, this reflects the socio-political climate of the late 1970s in England, where institutionalized racism was still a fixture in society. In fact, the Race Relations Act of 1976 made racial discrimination unlawful in employment, training, housing, education and the provision of goods, facilities and services for the first time. Painting about such subjects in the 1970s and 1980s would certainly have gone against the grain of social conventions demonstrating that Blake has a major fixation for the dramatic nature of popular culture and the power its visual imagery can harness in order to address race issues and cry out for equality.

Property From a Distinguished Private British Collection


Blanche neige and bet noir

oil on panel, in artist's frame
52.3 x 33.6 cm (20 5/8 x 13 1/4 in.)
Signed and dated 'Peter Blake 1981' on the reverse.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2016