Bob Peak: Poster Artist

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Bob Peak (1927-1992) at work in his studio

One of the best movie posters I own is a U.S. design for Joseph Losey’s Modesty Blaise (1966) featuring a gorgeous eye-popping illustration by Bob Peak. Recently I decided to do some research into Peak and was surprised and delighted to discover that he had illustrated many of my favorite movie posters made during the 1960s and 1970s. I also learned that the artist’s son, Tom Peak, had been keeping his father’s memory alive by maintaining a website celebrating Bob Peak’s artistic achievements and publishing books that feature his work.

Today I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned about Peak with our blog readers and showcase some of his best movie poster designs.

Bob Peak was born on May 30, 1927 in Denver, Colorado. He was the eldest of five children and both of his parents worked to keep the family afloat. His father was a salesman and his mother was a skilled calligrapher employed by the Hallmark greeting card company. Peak inherited his mother’s artistic instincts and at age seven, she gifted him with a set of his own paintbrushes that he immediately put to use.

When Peak’s mother unexpectedly died after contracting pneumonia, his father moved the children to Wichita, Kansas to live near relatives. This must have been a difficult time for the family but young Bob continued to pursue his artistic ambitions and eventually entered Wichita State University where he majored in geology with a minor in art. While attending college he also worked part-time in the art department of McCormick-Armstrong, a printing company. At McCormick-Armstrong, the ambitious artist was able to further develop his layout, lettering and commercial illustration skills. Following a brief stint in the Navy during the Korean War, Peak relocated to Los Angeles and enrolled in the prestigious Art Center College of Design where his focus was on fine art and illustration. While he was there, Peak met and married his wife, Lucille Tedesco.

OldHickBobPeak1956After graduating with honors in 1951, Peak and his wife moved to New York where he found work at The Alexander E. Chaite Studio, an advertising firm that also employed such notable names as famed comic book artist John Buscema as well as fellow commercial illustrators Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy. While at The Alexander E. Chaite Studio, Peak made a name for himself after working on an Old Hickory Whiskey ad campaign that featured well-heeled men on yachts, at ski resorts and in male-only clubs sipping whiskey from crystal glasses. Fans of Mad Men will instantly recognize some of Peak’s advertising imagery given that the offices at The Alexander E. Chaite Studio were undoubtedly one of the many inspirations for the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency.

Unsurprisingly, Hollywood took notice and in 1961 United Artists asked Peak to work with the legendary Saul Bass on designing some joint projects including advertising materials for West Side Story (1961) and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). Following the success of these films, Peak was asked to join Bill Gold Advertising where he helped create many movie posters over the next 30 years.

Besides creating posters, Peak continued to work in commercial advertising including providing illustrations for a number of magazines such as Time, Sports Illustrated, and TV Guide. In addition, he was commissioned by the United States Post Office to design stamps honoring the 1984 Summer & Winter Olympic Games. During this time, Peak was able to develop a distinct body of work influenced by his experience in advertising as well as pop art such as comic books, which he loved. This is apparent in his distinct designs, which often mix vibrant colors with dynamic figurative poses to express action and movement.

Alongside Saul Bass, Peak became one of the most celebrated poster artists working with Hollywood in the sixties and was able to adapt his style as the years passed and public tastes changed. Today his work is still highly recognizable and remains very collectable among movie poster enthusiasts who appreciate Peak’s flair for illustration, modern techniques and bold use of color.

What follows is an assortment of some of Bob Peak’s best poster art that I came across during my recent research. I hope you’ll enjoy perusing this collection as much as I enjoyed compiling it.

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If you’d like to learn more about the man and his work, I recommend visiting the official Bob Peak website.

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8 Responses Bob Peak: Poster Artist
Posted By Qalice : March 31, 2016 8:38 pm

These posters are gorgeous! They take me back to the era of illustrated movie posters, which I miss. Not that there aren’t great movie posters today, but too many of them are just PhotoShop nightmares reflecting contractual obligations more than the films they market.

Posted By kingrat : March 31, 2016 11:03 pm

Thanks for the terrific posters!

Posted By swac44 : April 1, 2016 12:20 pm

That’s a heck of a resume. Funny you mention Mad Men in reference to that Old Hickory ad, since the two men are dead ringers for Roger Sterling and Don Draper.

I have some original posters for the U.S. releases of some of the Sabata westerns from Italy that I thought might be Peak works, but they don’t quite have the “snap” that these posters do (although they’re still fun images).

I think there is still good poster art out there, looking at my local cineplex listings I see eye-catching designs for Zootopia and 10 Cloverfield Lane, but they are the exception, rather than the rule.

Posted By swac44 : April 1, 2016 12:22 pm

Also, I need to see The Liquidator as soon as possible. I see it’s an MGM title, let’s get it on the schedule, TCM!

Posted By robbushblog : April 1, 2016 2:13 pm

I always kind of figured all of those 60s posters might have been from the same person. The style is so recognizable and so very 60s. And that 70s painted style is also extremely recognizable. All of the posters you posted are recognizable, iconic images too. Amazing.

And yes, those two figures could totally pass for Roger Sterling and Don Draper. That’s exactly what I thought when I saw them too, but SWAC beat me to it. Curse you, SWAC!

I also long for the days when poster art was an actual art. I look at movie posters and Blu-ray or DVD covers these days and I sigh at the ugly, cheap-looking, cut and paste style and wish that more artists like Drew Struzan, and this guy Bob Peak, were still charged with doing posters and cover art.

How did Peak die at such a fairly young age? 65 isn’t so old, not even in 1992.

Posted By Doug : April 2, 2016 3:21 am

Thank you, Kimberly-it’s almost like solving a mystery-why did so many of these films have great posters? Answer: Bob Peak.
Very interesting to see the changes, the different styles for each film, all excellent.

Posted By Melvin Lee : April 2, 2016 4:13 pm

Thank you Kimberley! Most of these posters belong to the same era so I’d always assumed it was just the style of the times. I never imagined they were the work of a single prolific artist!

Posted By Tim Williams : April 3, 2016 11:03 pm

Robert Peak is the greatest movie poster artist who ever lived. He has been and continues to be an inspiration and unmet mentor to me and countless other illustrators. I’ve had the pleasure of exchanging several emails with his son Thomas. Robert’s legacy is in capable and loving hands.

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