Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
A watercolour of a boy, facing the front and smiling, set against a green background.
Peter Blake is the best known of British Pop artists, but there has always been a divide in his work between a knowing Modernism - recycling commercial images and exploring the cult of celebrity - and a sincerely felt engagement with childhood and with a distinctly English tradition of romanticism. Between 1969 and 1979 Blake lived in the countryside at Wellow, near Bath, and he was a founder member of the Brotherhood of Ruralists in 1975.
Throughout this period Blake executed paintings and drawings of fairies and of characters from Shakespeare (particularly A Midsummer Night's Dream) and from Lewis Carroll's Alice books. These works were characterisations, not depictions of specific moments in the plays and books, and are often presented in a simple frontal pose, as here. The faces are usually based on photographs, with the features slightly enlarged to give a more engaging effect. One of the first works of this type was a painting of Puck, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed, begun in 1969 and worked on over the next decade. The features of Puck were initially based on a photograph of the 1960s pop star Del Shannon, though they evolved as Blake revised the painting during the 1970s. The present watercolour corresponds closely in facial type with Puck as seen in the painting when it was exhibited at the Hayward Annual in 1977; but while the watercolour was inscribed by the artist as a Study for 'Puck', it is clearly a finished and independent work rather than a study for the painting in the usual sense.
Catalogue entry from 'Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration', London 2002