Peter Max's childhood began when he and his parents fled Nazi Germany, (Berlin, Germany) in 1938 to escape the Holocaust and traveled to Shanghai, China, where they lived for the next ten years. In 1948, the family moved to Haifa, Israel where they lived for several years. From Israel, the family continued moving westward and stopped in Paris for several months --an experience that greatly enriched Peter’s appreciation for art, which included him taking classes at the Louvre Museum.
Peter and his parents first settled in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in 1953 where he attended Lafayette High School (New York City). In 1956, Max began his formal art training at the Art Students League of New York in Manhattan, studying anatomy, figure drawing and composition under Frank J. Reilly who himself had studied at the League alongside Norman Rockwell.
In 1962 Max started a small Manhattan arts studio with friend Tom Daly known as "The Daly & Max Studio." Daly and Max were joined by friend and mentor Don Rubbo, and the three worked as a group on books and advertising for which they received industry recognition. Much of their work incorporated antique photographic images as elements of collage. Max's interest in astronomy contributed to his self described "Cosmic '60s" period which featured what became identified as psychedelic, counter culture imagery. Max's art was popularized nationally through TV commercials such as his 1968 "un cola" ad for the soft drink 7-UP which helped drive sales of his very profitable art posters and other merchandise. He reportedly appeared on the The Tonight Show in 1968. He was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine's 9-5-1969 edition under with the heading "Peter Max: Portrait of the artist as a very rich man."
In 1970, many of Max's products and posters were featured in the exhibition "The World of Peter Max" which opened at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. The US Postal Service commissioned Max to create the first 10¢ postage stamp to commemorate the Expo '74 World's Fair in Spokane, Washington. July 4, 1976, Max began his Statue of Liberty series leading to his efforts with Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca to help spearhead the restoration of the statue.
1976 also saw the commissioning of Peter Max Paints America by the ASEA of Sweden. The book project commemorated America's bicentennial and included the following foreword. "Peter Max Paints America is based on works of art commissioned by ASEA of Sweden on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America, in sincere recognition of the historic bonds of friendship between the people of Sweden and the people of the United States, recalling that Sweden was one of the first countries to extend its hand in friendship to the new nation."
Max's art work was first identified as having been a popular part of the counter culture and psychedelic movements in graphic design during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is known for using intense bursts of color, often containing much or all of the visible spectrum. His work was both influenced by, as well as widely imitated by, others in the field of commercial illustration, such as Heinz Edelmann. Peter Max' repetitive and varying claim to have worked on "Yellow Submarine" has been denied by the production team. 
Max works in multiple media including painting, drawing, collage, print making, sculpture, video and digital imagery. He also includes "mass media" as being another "canvas" for his creative expression. Max often uses patriotic American icons and symbols in his artwork. He has created paintings of presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush in addition to his 100 Clintons, --a multiple portrait installation. His work often features images of celebrities, politicians, athletes and sporting events and other pop culture subjects.
One of Continental Airlines' Boeing 777-200ER aircraft (registered N77014) sported a special livery designed by Max.
Peter Max was in the news in 2002 when he offered to provide a life of green fields for Cinci Freedom, a cow that escaped from an Ohio slaughterhouse. The cow leapt over a six-foot fence while the slaughterhouse workers were on break and eluded capture for eleven days. "This little girl's will—facing the end of her life, being so frightened, then taking the risk of all risks to live, to be free—touched me so deeply," Max was quoted as saying, "It was so inspiring. I knew I had to try to preserve that wonderful spirit." Max donated $180,000 worth of his art to benefit the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to ensure her a long life of peace at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York.
Peter Max currently lives in New York City with his wife, Mary Max.