Mati Klarwein, 70; Album Cover Artist

From Associated Press

Mati Klarwein, the surrealist painter who designed psychedelic album covers for rock bands and jazz musicians, including Santana, Miles Davis, and Earth, Wind and Fire, has died. He was 70.

Klarwein died Wednesday night at his home in Deia, an artists’ colony on the Spanish island of Majorca, officials of the municipality said Friday without giving the cause of death.

Klarwein was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in what became Israel, after his parents fled the Nazis in 1934. While studying art in Paris in the late 1940s, he took an interest in jazz and was captivated by the eerie surrealism of Salvador Dali.


He later met Dali in the 1970s, when Klarwein’s studio in New York drew visits from the Spanish artist and prominent personalities such as Davis, Timothy Leary and others.

Klarwein’s trademark was magical scenes with an erotic blaze of rich, deep colors and African and countercultural symbols.

One of Klarwein’s most famous album covers was for Santana’s “Abraxas.”

It showed the artist’s 1963 painting “The Annunciation,” which depicted the biblical story in which the archangel Gabriel tells Mary that she will give birth to Jesus.

Carlos Santana said he liked the work because “music and color are food for the soul.”

In “The Annunciation,” Klarwein based the nude black Virgin Mary on a girlfriend from Guadeloupe and painted himself as Joseph, wearing a straw hat. A winged, crimson Gabriel flies down from heaven on a conga drum.

“Drums were always used to announce something,” Klarwein said. “They were a medium of communication in Africa.”

Klarwein also painted album covers for Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and “Live Evil” and Buddy Miles’ “Hell and Back.” He also created illustrations for Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Klarwein denied several years ago that taking drugs had provided him with artistic inspiration. “I painted psychedelically before I took psychedelics,” he said.

No information was available on survivors.