Guy Peellaert dies at 74; Belgian pop artist worked with rock stars

Belgian pop artist Guy Peellaert, whose surreal pictures for the 1972 cult book “Rock Dreams” brought him worldwide attention and led him to design album covers for the Rolling Stones and David Bowie, has died. He was 74.

Peellaert obituary: The news obituary of pop artist Guy Peellaert in Sunday’s California section misspelled the first name of the writer he worked with on the book “Rock Dreams.” His name is Nik Cohn, not Nick. —

Peellaert died Monday in Paris after a long illness, according to media reports.

“Rock Dreams” was a fantasy tribute to rock ‘n’ roll that placed various major rock stars in dreamlike situations intended to reflect their music and public images.

With 116 flashy pictures by Peellaert and pithy commentary by English rock writer Nick Cohn, the book masterfully conveyed “the spirit of rock -- the irreverence, the outrage, the gaudiness, the occasional tenderness,” wrote pop music critic Robert Hilburn in 1974 in The Times.

John Lennon reportedly framed the cover of the British edition, which shows him sitting at a lunch counter with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Bowie.

In other paintings, Dylan is depicted as an isolated superstar, huddled in luxury in the back of a limousine; Presley is surrounded by imitators at a disciples’ banquet of hamburgers and Cokes; and Alice Cooper is a carnival sideshow businessman.

Bowie and Jagger “fought for custody of Peellaert’s time and genius like jealous parents,” according to a 2000 article in The Times.

In 1974, Peellaert provided the cover for the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll” and for Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs.”

He also created the posters for the Wim Wenders films “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire,” for Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” and for Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts.”

Peellaert was born April 6, 1934, in Brussels into an aristocratic family. After studying fine art, he developed an interest in jazz, pop culture and film and then volunteered to fight in the Korean War.

“He wanted to prove to himself that the world is not so easy,” his agent, Noemie Mainguet, said Friday in the London Daily Telegraph.

In the 1960s, Peellaert was drawing comics in Belgium when he traveled to Paris to work on a film and stayed.

With author Michael Herr, he collaborated on “The Big Room,” published in 1986 as a darkly surrealistic homage to Las Vegas. The artwork took him 11 years to complete.

Peellaert again worked with Cohn on “20th Century Dreams” (1999), designed as an alternative history of the 20th century, but the work failed to find a wide audience. Using a computer, Peellaert created fantastical collages that juxtaposed Jacqueline Kennedy and Cassius Clay in a convertible and showed Ronald and Nancy Reagan shopping for shoes with the pope and Mother Teresa.

Nelson is a Times staff writer.