Peter Max umbrella, c. 1968-70

The kaleidoscopic vision of this umbrella cover is the trademark style of Peter Max (b. 1937), New York's East Village illustrator who gave the hippie generation its far-out graphics for Central Park "Be-Ins" and Woodstock-era rock 'n' roll concerts. Influenced by early-twentieth-century Fauvist artists—particularly Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Henri Matisse (1869-1954)—as well as his childhood comic books, Max designed this chromatic burst of twenty-two human faces and figures morphing into another. Stars and moons circle in a kinetic rhythm of psychedelic colors titled "Astrological Astroplane," attesting to the artist's deep interest in astrophysics. In reference to this era, Max wrote: "My Cosmic period of the late sixties was a visual translation of the euphoria and expansion I experienced during those times. It seemed that art was no longer something I did, but something that happened to me."1

c. 1968-70
Peter Max, Illustrator
Museum Purchase

As a graphic artist, Peter Max had a simple goal: “I want to turn the world into a gallery…I want a beautiful world. I am going to make it a Peter Max world.2 Max pursued this objective by licensing his illustrations to manufacturers who produced a host of products. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Max' illustrations appeared on a dizzying array of consumer goods: scarves, cosmetic packaging, pens, neck-ties, shoes, garments, linens, clocks, posters, lunch boxes, stationary, even United States postal stamps. Max' graphics also appeared in television commercials, including ads for 7 Up and the American Cancer Society. In 1971, Max estimated that his illustrations had been reproduced 75 billion times.3 Though Peter Max' distinct illustration style was a signature in itself, most of the licensed products also featured his name somewhere in the design. Can you spot the words "Peter Max" on our umbrella?

Though Peter Max made a fortune licensing his illustrations, he also considered the distribution of his work a kind of public service. Max believed strongly in the power of positivity and believed that his bright, light-hearted illustrations of stars, rainbows, and smiles made the world better, and more positive. Mass production was simply an extension of this belief; a wide range of products allowed more consumers access to Max' positive visual messages. Max didn't claim credit for the impact of his work, but attributed it to a "cosmic force." In 1969, Max stated, "It's not me covering the world [with my illustrations], it's some great cosmic force working through me."4


1 Riley, Charles A. The Art of Peter Max New York: Abrams, 2002: 23.
2 Shulte, Ellen. "How Peter Max Struck It Rich at 28." Los Angeles Times 30 Jan 1969: g14.
3 Krier, Beth Ann. "An Artist's Feats in Shoe Design: Peter Max Shoes." Los Angeles Times 25 Aug. 1971: G1.
4 Martin, Judith. "Happy, Hip Peter Max" The Washington Post 16 Nov. 1969: F1.

6 responses to “Peter Max umbrella, c. 1968-70

  1. M'Lady ND says:

    I have a fair to good condition of this same umbrella and I’d like to know how much I should insure it for?

  2. judy tibbetts says:

    I have one of these umbrellas,i used to wait at the school bus with it! and I had it signed when peter maxx was at this local art gallery,,would like to know what is it worth! please reply thank you!

  3. Rachel says:

    Hi Judy,

    What a fun umbrella to use as a child!

    Our code of ethics prohibits us from offering valuations for objects. I’d suggest checking online auction sites for comparable objects such as similar umbrellas or work by Peter Max. This will hopefully give you a rough idea of the value.

  4. Martha Holladay says:

    I used mine on many rainy days in Virginia…. Still have it and love this forever groovy umbrella!!

  5. M'Lady ND says:

    I have mine stored safely and use it only on special occasions usually in a night club all dressed up and showing off my prize Umbrella. I open it occasionally just to keep it working and the plastic kept viable.

  6. Ardenpdx at Gmail says:

    I’d like to sell mine. I have this pictured umbrella and its in very good condition. I few very small scraps in the print but otherwise great.

Leave a Reply