While majoring in geology at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin, Peter Dean audited art history classes that eventually convinced him to return to his original dream of becoming an artist. He completed his bachelor’s degree and moved to New York, where he studied with André Girard at City College. In 1965 Dean co-founded the Torque group, whose members included Joseph Kurhajec, Peter Saul, and Leon Golub. In 1969, Dean founded another group, Rhino Horn, including Peter Pasuntino, Nick Sperakis, and other artists who focused on socially critical art.
Dean combined expressionism and fantasy to treat political topics including the Vietnam War, the destruction of Native American culture, and the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, and John Lennon. Dean exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and his work has been collected by several public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; the National Gallery of Art, D.C; the Mint Museum of Art, North Carolina, Grey Art Gallery, New York, among others. He died in New York in 1993.