Peak, Bob

BOB PEAK (1927-1992)

One of the most imaginative and prolific illustrators of the 20th century, Robert Peak revolutionized advertising in the film industry and is considered the “father of the modern movie poster.”  Peak totally transformed the approach to movie advertising from basic collages of film stills or head shots to flamboyant artistic illustrations. United Artists hired Peak in 1961 to help promote West Side Story. His innovative, solution - painting characters and scenes into a single montage - became the first of over 100 such posters, among them My Fair Lady, Camelot, Rollerball, Star Trek, Superman and Apocalypse Now. Peak was not short on editorial assignments with 45 covers of Time Magazine featuring his illustrations - most notably the portrait of Mother Teresa.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Peak grew up in Kansas and knew from an early age that he wanted to be a commercial illustrator. At age seven, he received a gift of brushes and paints, and by age nine he was drawing recognizable likenesses. He attended Wichita State University where he majored in geology with a minor in art and got a part time job in the art department of McCormick-Armstrong. That is where he gained the confidence to choose an art career and learned the skill of versatility doing layout, illustration and lettering. After a stint in the military during the Korean War, Peak transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California and graduated in 1951. In 1953 he moved to New York, landed an Old Hickory Whiskey ad campaign, and from that point on his career skyrocketed. Peak's success with 1961's West Side Story led to work on posters for designer Bill Gold, including the big-budget musicals My Fair Lady and Camelot. In the mid-1970s Peak's style would become familiar to fans of science fiction films when he created the poster art for the futuristic film Rollerball (1975), which was followed by the first five Star Trek films, Superman (1978), Excalibur (1981) Apocalypse Now (1979), The Spy Who Loved Me and other James Bond concepts.

"For me the solving of the problem, the creative process, is more exciting than doing the finish. The finish, of course, is as important as the loudspeaker of a hi-fi rig. It must be good, but if the music that comes out of that speaker doesn't mean anything to the listener, who needs it?" - Bob Peak


By the 1980's only the movie poster artist Drew Struzan was in as much demand by film directors. Peak's work appeared in major advertising and national magazines. Sports Illustrated sent him on assignments throughout the world, including a safari to hunt ibex with the Shah of Iran. He received the largest commission of an individual artist from the U.S. Postal Service to design 30 stamps for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California and 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. In 1961 Peak was named Artist of the Year by the Artists Guild of New York, and in 1977 the Society of Illustrators elected him to its Hall of Fame. For his 30 years of outstanding contribution to the film industry, the Hollywood Reporter presented him the 1992 Key Art Lifetime Achievement Award. From January 20 through April 17, 2011, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the Bob Peak: Creating the Modern Movie Poster exhibit at its headquarters building in Beverly Hills. Peak’s work is included in many permanent collections, and three of these paintings-of Anwar Sadat, Mother Teresa and Marion Brando hang in the Smithsonian Institution. His body of work was immortalized in the 2012 book Art of Bob Peak

To view Bob Peak's works from the Jim Hughes Collection click here