Described as the father of modern movie posters, the late Bob Peak provided colorful, graphically complex illustrations to publicize more than 130 films, including “My Fair Lady,” “Funny Girl,” “Camelot,” “Apocalypse Now,” “West Side Story” and the first five “Star Trek” features. The former adman’s artwork also graced the covers of Time, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated.
Seventeen years after his death at age 65, Peak is receiving his first one-man show in the L.A. area at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, running today through June 25.
“My dad once told me when he worked on a film he got hired to think,” son Tom Peak says. “They would bring him in and he would talk to the director, the actors. He looked at dailies, and sometimes he would be on the set of a movie and do sketching.”
He’d then go back to his studio and draw a series of black-and-white sketches. After showing them to the movie studio, Peak added color to the black-and-white sketches and made them more finished. Then, after more discussion, Peak developed four or five finished drawings, and the studio chose one for the poster. In some cases, such as for “Apocalypse Now,” the studio used several images.
Peak used a variety of materials in his art. “One thing about my father is that he was very versatile,” says his son. “If it was a western like ‘The Missouri Breaks,’ that would be a western look with charcoals. But if it was like ‘Our Man Flint’ with James Coburn, he would use bright colors. He would use oils, acrylics, charcoals, and sometimes he would mix all of them.”
Peak, born in 1927 in Denver and raised in Wichita, Kan., had humble beginnings. “When he was 12, his mother, who passed away when he was 13, gave him a set of watercolors and a little drawing board, and he couldn’t get away from it,” says Tom Peak. “He spent a few years in the service when he was young, and to make extra money he used to draw portraits of the guys.”
He went to the Art Center College of Design, then in Los Angeles. Later he moved to New York and worked in advertising at Chaite Studios. “Everybody was telling him his work was wrong -- it was too colorful and too loose. They said you have to tighten up your illustrations.”
But one man at the company liked his work, and soon Peak was doing an ad campaign for Old Hickory Bourbon. Later, he was hired to do ads for companies such as 7-Up and TWA airlines. “My father said, ‘I came into the scene when the advertising world was looking for something fresh and new.’ ”
Peak broke into movies with 1961’s “West Side Story” and hit his stride with 1964’s pastel poster of “My Fair Lady,” with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. “After that, he took off in the movies,” says his son.
For more information, visit www.gallery nucleus.com.