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Peter Saul (born August 16, 1934) is an American painter. His work has connections with Pop Art, Surrealism, and Expressionism. His early use of pop culture cartoon references in the late 1950s and very early 1960s situates him as one of the fathers of the Pop Art movement. He realised about 800 paintings during his career.[1]

Peter Saul
San Francisco, California
NationalityUnited States
Alma materWashington University in St. Louis
Known forPainting, Sculpture
MovementFunk art, Nut art
"Ever Redy" (1963), 31.5 x 27 inches, water-soluble crayon on paper
"Ahem" (2000), 64 x 60 inches, acrylic on canvas

Early life and workEdit

Peter Saul was born in San Francisco, California, and studied at the California School of Fine Arts from 1950 to 1952 and at Washington University in St. Louis from 1952 to 1956 before moving to Europe where he remained until 1964. Saul was inspired by 1940’s comic books such as Crime Does Not Pay, Plastic Man, and the painting Coney Island by Paul Cadmus that he saw reproduced in an art book his mother received from Book-of-the Month Club in 1939. After completing art school in 1956, he developed a brushy art style influenced by de Kooning. In 1958 he decided to incorporate cartoon images such as Donald Duck and Superman as subjects in his paintings after seeing an issue of Mad magazine in a Paris bookstore. Roberto Matta introduced his work to the dealer Allan Frumkin and in 1961, he had his first show at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in Chicago, followed in 1962 by simultaneous shows at Galerie Breteau in Paris and the Allan Frumkin Gallery in New York City. He was quickly classified as a Pop artist, albeit one with “too much paint”.[2]

Art critic John Yau wrote of Saul's work in The Brooklyn Rail:

His orchestration of the intertwining, overlapping, cartoony figures could only have been done by someone who absorbed the all-over compositions of the Abstract Expressionists. He juices the painting up to a fever pitch with a jarring, manic palette of bright reds, blues, and greens. And then there are the details that one finds within the painting—the mayhem and violence, all precisely and lovingly depicted with hair-raising glee.[3]

Later life and workEdit

In 1964 Saul returned to the United States and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area where he lived for eleven years. During this time, he began loose highly personal interpretations of the Vietnam War, as well as agonized psychological portraits of politicians and other personalities, in a tight linear style using bright Dayglo colors and acrylics. He was loosely affiliated with other Bay Area artists and participated in the 1967 Funk show. In the 70s, Saul moved into interpretations of historical masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s Nightwatch and Picasso’s Guernica, and also what he thought of as American scene painting making use of cinematic illusionistic space.

Saul spent the 1980s and 90s in Austin, Texas where he taught at the University of Texas. During this time his content diversified and his style focused on ever more glamorous treatment of “low” subjects, heavily influenced by 19th-century painting. The critic Holland Cotter in a 2008 New York Times review of a retrospective of his work called Saul "a classic artist’s artist, one of our few important practicing history painters and a serial offender in violation of good taste".[4] Saul’s work has often been independent of specific art movements and thus he "has spent a lifetime avoiding easy critical definition".[5]


In 2017, the first comprehensive survey of Saul's oeuvre in Europe took place at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt;[6] it later traveled to Deichtorhallen in Hamburg.[7]



In 2010 Saul was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Art marketEdit

Saul worked with Mary Boone Gallery in New York from 2012 until 2018. He has since been represented by Venus Over Manhattan and Michael Werner [de].[8]


  1. ^ “Peter Saul interview with Irving Sandler and Phong Bui,” The Brooklyn Rail, Dec. 2010, Jan. 2011, p.20
  2. ^ Newsweek, November 9, 1964
  3. ^ Yau, John (January 2011). "Peter Saul: Fifty Years of Painting". The Brooklyn Rail.
  4. ^ Holland Cotter, “Peter Saul Manifesto,” August 15, 2008, New York Times
  5. ^ Christian Viveros-Fauné, “Peter Saul’s Thrilling Tastelessness,” The Village Voice, Dec. 8, 2010
  6. ^ "Peter Saul". Schirn Kunsthalle. 10/24/17. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "Diechtorhallen Hamburg Peter Saul". Diechtorhallen Hamburg. 10/24/17. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Annie Armstrong (July 12, 2019), Following Mary Boone Closure, Legendary Painter Peter Saul Will Be Repped in New York by Michael Werner, Venus Over Manhattan ARTnews.

Further readingEdit

“Peter Saul. You Better Call Saul” Cat. Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Moscow, Russia (2016), ISBN 978-5-9906881-9-3. [1]

“Peter Saul” Exh. Cat. Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia (Hatje Cantz, 2008), ISBN 978-3-7757-2204-9

“Peter Saul,” Cat. Musée de L’Abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables D’Olonne (Somogy Editions D’Art, 1999)

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit