Godfather of British Pop Art, Sir Peter Blake, has been lauded in the art world since the 1960s. Blake's work sometimes achieves hundreds of thousands at auction, making him one of the most successful Pop Artists in Britain and one-to-watch for collectors.
Here, we discuss Blake's most expensive works sold at auctions around the world to date:
Part of Blake's eclectic series of female and male wrestlers, Little Lady Luck is one of his most striking imagined individuals. From the mid-1950s, Blake had been invested in picturing the so-called "oddballs" of society, and conceived characters like Little Lady Luck to encapsulate the spirit of subculture. The cryla and collage work appeared at Christie's Modern British & Irish Art sale on 22 November 2017. The sultry portrait fetched £704,750, becoming Blake's most expensive work to date.
This slightly eerie and naive work appeared at Christie's Modern British and Irish Art auction on 25 June 2015. The oil painting pictures three cheeky young boys, all of their faces cropped out of the composition, wearing novelty ties decorated with seductive women. The work's original owner purchased the painting directly from Blake in 1960 for the small sum of £30, paid in 10 instalments of £3 each week. Nearly 55 years later, the whimsical work almost doubled its high estimate of £350,000, achieving an impressive £662,5000.
Like his Little Lady Luck, Doktor K. Tortur is another imagined character from Blake's series of wrestlers. The bare-chested, bald figure gazes out towards the viewer with what Blake called a "distinguished nastiness". Like other works in the series, Blake fixed found objects to the hardboard to build a narrative around his imaginary machismo wrestler. The mixed media work was flogged at Christie's Modern British Art Evening Sale on 22 March 2022, and achieved £441,000.
Throughout the 1960s, Blake was committed to depicting the eccentric "outsiders" of polite society. This oil and collage work, executed on a narrow panel, gives the impression that Loelia is encaged and on show to the public. This is an early example from Blake's lifelong oeuvre, and is typical of his earlier naive approach to his proto-Pop works. When the work appeared at Christie's 20th Century British and Irish Art auction on 11 November 2010, it more than doubled its high estimate of £150,000, fetching £337,250.
Liberty Blake In A Kimono is a rare instance in Blake's oeuvre in which the artist depicted a subject entirely personal to him. The young sitter is Liberty Blake, the artist's eldest daughter. Unlike his earlier works depicting fictitious characters, this work is a tender portrait of his three-year-old daughter, who gazes out to the viewer with a naive curiosity. The work achieved £289,250 at Christies' Post-War & Contemporary Art auction on 27 June 2012, over double its high estimate of £120,000.
Blake executed this 1949 Self Portrait at just 17-years-old while studying at the Gravesend College of Art. The work far-surpassed its high estimate of £80,000 when it was sold at Christie's Modern British Art Day Sale, selling for £287,500. There is a psychological intensity to Blake's gaze, which reveals the artist closely studying and representing his own features. Created during Blake's formative years as an artist, we can see the development of his realist palette and his early ability to imbue portraits with an intense personality.
Originally made for his close friend and fellow Pop artist Pauline Boty, Valentine is an homage to the close relationship between the kindred creatives. Boty was also a student at the Royal College of Art, and the pair went on to exhibit together before her untimely death in 1966. Valentine was sold at Sotheby's Modern & Post-War British Art auction on 19 November 2019, and achieved £287,500.
It seems only fitting that Blake's Love was sold at Sotheby's (Red) Auction on Valentine's Day - 14 February - in 2008. The auction was held to raise money for (RED), a charity that works to fight AIDS. Love is a theme which has permeated much of Blake's oeuvre, and this particular work uses found red objects to form the letters of his naive and sentimental message. The work fetched $418,000 (£213,264), a great contribution to this charitable cause.
In typically Pop fashion, Blake's entire body of work has been shaped by the imagery of pop culture and mass media. When Blake was a boy, MGM released a series of Tarzan movies, which were to become the source material for a collection of large-scale paintings. This particular example pictures the naked Jane, flanked by Tarzan and three African sitters, with a cheetah whimsically painted in front of her crotch. The unusually large painting was sold at Christie's Modern British Art Evening Sale on 17 June 2019, and achieved £225,000.
Strong Man, 1 was painted around the same time as Loelia, World's Most Tattooed Lady, and forms part of Blake's early body of work that depicted imaginary entertainers. Painted on found hardboard, the work might be interpreted as a relic, not dissimilar to an altarpiece panel. Instead of saints, however, Blake champions the rejects of society. The work appeared at Sotheby's on 20 November 2018, and sold for £187,500.
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