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Bob Peak: The Movie Poster and Beyond Four Decades of American Illustration

Bob Peak, Poster for Apocalypse Now, 1979, watercolor and gouache on board.
Bob Peak, Poster for Apocalypse Now, 1979, watercolor and gouache on board.

While you are in town check out The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art.  Currently presenting and exhibition showcasing original illustration art for films and other media on view through August 3rd, 2014.


Bob Peak (1927-1992) is considered to be one of the most important American illustrators working in the decades after World War II. He used his extraordinary skills as a draftsman and designer to transform the appearance of American magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. He was responsible for creating the sophisticated look of the “Mad Men” era by creating images with a unique blend of style, sophistication, and casual elegance.


Peak’s work was in demand by all the major national magazines, and he helped shape almost every type of print genre–ranging from fashion to sports. He is probably best known, however, for creating over 100 movie posters. These include some of the most memorable and iconic images in our culture, such as the designs for My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, and Apocalypse Now.


This exhibition features 44 original, hand-painted works of art that span Peak’s entire career. It includes examples ranging from his first advertising campaign in 1955 to his late works of the 1990s. There is a special emphasis on the 1960s–a period that many consider to be his best and most innovative. Highlights include rare compositional studies for West Side Story and My Fair Lady, as well as finished art for Funny Girl and Thoroughly Modern Millie. A special treat is a display of four of the seven original paintings Peak created to promote Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. This fascinating series of paintings reveals how the director’s and artist’s ideas about the movie evolved as filming progressed.


In the 1970s Peak began a series of over 40 covers for Time magazine. This group of powerful portraits is represented in this show by key political personalities of the time such as John F. Kennedy, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and then-President elect Jimmy Carter. Also in the 1970s and ’80s Peak became interested in science fiction and fantasy; this phase of his career is represented by studies for the movies Superman and Excalibur, as well as a series of three paintings for the action film Rollerball.


Michael Zakian, curator of the exhibition, said, “It is especially rewarding to bring this exhibition to the people of Los Angeles. For the general public, it will be a walk down memory lane. The images he created had such an impact on popular culture that even younger visitors will recognize many of his creations. For working artists, it is a rare treat to see hand-painted originals by a master painter, designer, and illustrator. Working in the days before digital design, he often drew elements on different pieces of paper and then moved them around on his board to find the perfect composition. The working studies offer a glimpse into the creative process of a master.”


Peak grew up in Kansas during the Depression and began creating illustrations while at Wichita State University. He studied at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. In 1953 he moved to New York City and began his career as a professional illustrator. His forward-looking style appealed to advertisers wanting to attract new, younger customers. His work began to appear in major advertising campaigns and national magazines. By the 1960s he was one of the most sought-after illustrators in New York. His willingness to experiment allowed him to adapt to changing tastes decade-by-decade, and he helped define the look of his era.


About the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University was founded in 1992. It showcases historical and contemporary art by nationally recognized artists, but focuses on the art of California. Past exhibitions have included Rodin’s Obsession: The Gates of Hell (2001), Claes Oldenburg: Drawings (2004), Chihuly Los Angeles (2005), Jim Dine: Some Drawings (2007), Roy Lichtenstein: In Process (2011), Illustrating Modern Life: The Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection (2013), and Wayne Thiebaud: Works on Paper (2014).


Located on Pepperdine’s main campus at 24255 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, CA, the museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and is closed on Mondays and major holidays. There is no admission charge.


For more information, call (310) 506-4851 or visit:



Exhibition: Now through August 3, 2014


Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art

Pepperdine University

24255 Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu, CA 90263


Museum hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Closed on Mondays and major holidays

No admission fee

General information: (310) 506-4851

Museum staff: (310) 506-7257



Museum Contact:

Michael Zakian, Director

(310) 506-7257


Group Tours Contact:

Monica Chapon

Museum Assistant/Arts Education Coordinator

(310) 506-4766

article courtesy of Pepperdine Center for the Arts

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