Never afraid to confront the less salubrious aspects of American society, painter Peter Saul has made a career of challenging the boundaries of taste. Born in San Francisco in 1934, Saul was one of the pioneers of Pop Art and has often incorporated Cold War themes into his canvases.
His distinctive style blends Surrealism and Expressionism with a psychedelic colour palette. Like a modern-day Hieronymus Bosch, Saul has often created lurid landscapes populated by deformed figures that are reminiscent of those of Salvador Dalí. His early fascination with cartoons has reverberated throughout his work which is at turns humorous, grotesque and offensive.
During the Cold War, Saul often responded to controversial political themes to provide unsettling and unflattering social commentary. In the 1960s and ’70s his anger at US aggression in the Vietnam War led to a series of works including Vietnam and Saigon, while he delivered scathing visual attacks on political figures including Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. In recent years he has continued to make allusions to the Cold War, such as in a series of canvases with comical depictions of Stalin and Mao.
Images (top to bottom): Peter Saul, Saigon, 1967. Enamel, oil, and synthetic polymer on canvas, 235.6 × 360.7 cm. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Peter Saul, Stalin + Mao, 2009. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of David Nolan Gallery, New York.