West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Camelot. Coca-Cola, TWA, Columbia Records. Time magazine, TV Guide, Sports Illustrated.
Few artists of the 20th century have had the imagination, brilliance and flair of Bob Peak, whose 40-year career earned him the title, "Father of the Modern Hollywood Movie Poster.” Peak was also a commercial illustrator and editorial designer who was the brain behind a slew of leading magazine covers, including 45 for Time alone.
Several years after his death in 1992, Peak’s son Tom decided to write a book about his father’s career.
Titled “The Art of Bob Peak,” the coffee table book will be the subject of an Author Night at the South Pasadena Public Library Community Room today, Thursday, Sept. 19, starting at 7 p.m.
The book took about a year just to design. Weighing eight pounds and 400 pages long, the tome is categorized by the various fields Peak illustrated, such as travel, movies, sports, journalism and fine arts.
A prematurely retired salesman by profession, Tom began his publishing journey with Flesk Publications, a relatively young company that specializes in publishing art books, graphic novels and comics. But not exactly pleased with the size or quality of the book that Flesk produced, Tom pulled out of the project.
As time went on, Tom clung to the idea of a book about his father—“a substantial-size art book,” that is. “Thinking that down the road I’m definitely going to get something done,” he started collecting quotes from people who knew his father in the worlds of entertainment, publishing and sports.
“I approached Benedikt Taschen, who owns Taschen Books out of Cologne, Germany,” Tom said, adding that Taschen’s art director in the U.S. set up a meeting between Taschen and Tom while the publishing magnate was visiting Los Angeles for business.
The art director “forewarned me that Taschen might give you five or 10 minutes of his time—that’s it—don’t be taken aback by him doing that,” Tom said, adding: “We met for about two hours, which was really interesting, even though he turned me down because he thought there wouldn’t be enough interest in a book about my dad outside the United States.”
“I didn’t really know anything about the publishing business,” Tom told Patch. “But I kind of promised myself that before I leave this earth I would make sure I did a nice book about my father—maybe more than one book about his career.”
Tom eventually teamed up with Richard Trimarchi, the owner of ArtWorks, a Highland Park-based publisher of fine arts books. Trimarchi helped Tom categorize and scan his father’s artwork. From some 6,000 images, Tom settled on about 600 that he finally included in his self-published book about his father.
The book has been selling extraordinarily well, according to Tom—and not just in the U.S. It’s being snapped up across Asia, too, belying Taschen’s predictions.
Thursday’s Author Night will feature an exhibit of original artwork by Peak as well as a short film and a PowerPoint presentation of his pioneering 40-year career. Copies of The Art of Bob Peak will be available for sale.
Art lovers and students of pop culture alike can expect to get an intimate glimpse of the man who not only set the standard for commercial art but who “rewrote the rules of illustration artistry time after time,” in the words of City Library Director Steve Fjeldsted.
A world premier of Peak’s art, featuring Giclee prints of his work, opened this past Saturday at the South Pasadena Mercantile Co., a fine arts store run by Scott Gandell, who hails from a family of artists. Located at 1106 Fair Oaks Ave., the store will also be selling copies of The Art of Bob Peak through Nov. 3.