Beatles Artist Peter Blake Reveals Queen Portrait And Discusses Financial Troubles

Beatles Artist Peter Blake So Broke He 'Faced Bailiffs'

Pop art pioneer Sir Peter Blake, famous for his Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, has revealed that his financial troubles got so bad five years ago that he was visited by bailiffs.

Sir Peter, 79, earned a flat fee of £200 for the 1967 Beatles cover, a collage of life-sized cardboard models of famous faces with the Fab Four, after his agent signed away copyright and royalties.

But he told the Radio Times: "Five years ago I was totally broke.

"I had no cash and no way to earn it. My credit cards were refused and bailiffs turned up at the house. I was very upset. It was to do with tax.

"Now I've reached the happy position that, mainly through printmaking, I'm not likely to be broke again. I earn the right amount for someone of my age and situation in the art world."

Sir Peter, whose artwork on the album cover is in millions of homes, said of fighting for royalties: "I don't feel resentful any more ... One reason I didn't pursue it was our friendship with Paul McCartney."

The pop artist, who is now worth around "a million in property", with his studio, his house and another in the country, spoke as he created a Radio Times souvenir cover portrait of the Queen.

Sir Peter, who criticised Lucian Freud's well-known 2001 portrait of the Queen as "sloppy", was turned down for an official portrait in 1969.

He said: "The Queen declined and chose (Pietro) Annigoni again. I'm guessing she was frightened it would be a pop art picture. It wouldn't have been.

"I'm a royalist. I was in the crowds with my grandmother at her wedding to Philip, the victory parade after the war and lots of royal events."

He said of the royal portraits: "Probably Lucian Freud's is the most important, but it was terrible, even though I'm a great fan."

He said of the 2001 painting: "I don't think he wanted to do it. He resisted for a long time and then gave in for whatever ultimatum - sent to the Tower! It's sloppy. I think he was sulking."

Sir Peter made a wooden sculpture of a Captain Webb matchbox before Andy Warhol depicted a Campbell's soup can.

"A mutual friend suggested we meet when I went to New York. He pretended he didn't know my work, but he must have done," Sir Peter said.

"Over the years we met about eight times but had nothing to say to each other. Then he had a show in London and at a dinner to celebrate it someone came over and said, 'Andy would like to meet you'.

"I refused. I didn't want him pretending he'd never met me. He was patronising and I was stupid. Sadly he died later that year, and I regret we didn't talk.

"I didn't admire his work at the time, but do now."

Sir Peter said he had "shot myself in the foot a couple of times" by telling his agent never to sell to Charles Saatchi and for vowing not to show in New York again following "vicious reviews".

"I've often made moral decisions where I chose not to make money. I could earn more today if I signed on for certain prints, but I want to keep my independence," he said.

"My morality has changed, though. I wouldn't sell myself for anything, but I'd consider any offer."


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