Peter Blake, founding father of British Pop Art, has been producing quirky and inventive collages since the mid-1950s, when he was in his early twenties. His Venice Fantasies, made in his mid-seventies with the same lightness of touch and fresh eye that has distinguished all his work, are marked by his characteristic wry humour and unerring sense of the absurd. Fifty years after his first trip to the most magical of Italian cities, he made his first return visit in 2007, just as he was embarking on this series of affectionate and often frankly preposterous tributes to the city as reconfigured in his imagination.
Taking as his cue the Surrealist collages of Max Ernst and others, he engages in the same sort of time travel and unlikely alliances that marked his celebrated cover design for the Beatles LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Each of the 21 images takes as its starting-point a photographic view of Venice from the early 1900s, part of a concertina set of tourist postcards, but then subverts it to consistently surprising ends. The city is invaded by penguins and engulfed in icebergs, used as a stage set by dance companies and as a camp site by scout troops, its tranquillity shattered by plane crashes, madly overcrowded regattas, fishermen, motorboat racers and ‘magic crowds’. On the Piazza San Marco, citizens from ancient times rub shoulders at a café with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, quintessential American tourists happily consuming their own picnic.
Teeming with detail, these humorous and highly entertaining pictures show Blake at his imaginative best.