Album Art – Mati Klarwein Album Covers

Some visual artworks are made to be talked about more than to be seen, others are made to be seen more than to be talked about. I think I belong in the latter category.

Mati Klarwein

This is where I’ll be talking about the Album Art that I like. That is one of the benefits of 12″ vinyl albums, the cool packaging that surrounded the record. Here I’ll research the creations that we all loved as children, teenagers, and adults. I’ll try to find as much information on the artists as I can.

Abdul Mati Klarwein was born in Hamburg, Germany, on April 9, 1932. He was a French painter of German origin best known for his works used on the covers of music albums. His family fled to the British Mandate of Palestine when he was two years old and in 1948 moved to Paris, France. There Mati studied from 1949 to 1951 with Fernand Léger[1], and attended the art schools École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian.

Miles Davis
Bitches Brew and Live Evil

“Bitches Brew” was Miles Davis’ studio 2LP studio album released on March 30, 1970. Miles experimented with a number of electric instruments on this album adding electric piano and guitar to make a rock-influenced soundscape. For the cover of this particular album, Klarwein used a technique known as ‘Mischtechnik’, which was a method of layering tempera and oil paints to create a bright, realistic painting.

While it’s easy to see how the cover might represent dichotomies, it is really more about tandems and shared experiences, coupled with the acknowledgment that individual perspectives can create an otherworldly experience.

Mati Klarwein

It was a fusion of the dark and the light, the relationship between nature and humans, and certainly an amalgamation of cultures. The next Davis album for Klarwein was “Live Evil” with “life” on the front – a pregnant woman – and “evil” on the back – a toad.

The only time he discussed subject matter was for Live-Evil. He asked me to paint a toad for the Evil side. Next to me there was a copy of Time Magazine with J. Edgar Hoover on the cover, and he looked like a toad. I told Miles I had found the toad. I painted J. Edgar Hoover as a toad in drag – which turned out to be another one of my prophetic insights.

Mati Klarwein


The Carlos Santana “Abraxas” album cover wasn’t commissioned like the Davis covers. Klarwein had painted “Annunciation” in 1961, his first painting after his ‘initial New York awakening’ at the peak of his ‘molecular bio-energy’.

It was the congas between the angel’s legs and the colors. I’d just discovered that music and color are food for the soul

Carlos Santana

Carlos saw this painting in a magazine and thought it would be perfect for his upcoming album, “Abraxas”. Abraxas was hailed as a rock-fusion masterpiece that blended the sounds of Latin America with blues and jazz. Now Klarwein’s art was next to 5 million turntables as the album generated mega-hits like “Oye Como Va”, “Black Magic Woman”, my favorite “Hope You’re Feeling Better” and “Samba Pa Ti”. It was released on September 23, 1970, and reached number 1 in the US.

Carlos Santana saw a reproduction of the Annunciation in a magazine and wanted it for the cover of his all time best selling Abraxas album. It did me a world of good. I saw the album pinned to the wall in a shaman’s mud hut in Niger and inside a Rastafarian’s ganja hauling truck in Jamaica. I was in good global company, muchissimas gracias, Carlito!

Mati Klarwein

The Chambers Brothers
New Generation

The Chambers Brothers are a psychedelic soul band, integrating American blues and gospel traditions with modern psychedelic and rock elements. They were hired to support Maria Muldaur on her tour and made commercials for Levi’s. Their 1971 album “New Generation” used the Klarwein’s painting “Grain of Sand”. The circular art took him 3 years to create and could be viewed from any side.

I projected it as a sort of painted musical comedy movie with a sanskrit swinging cast of thousands, starring Marilyn Monroe, Anita Ekberg, Ray Charles, Pablo Picasso, Brigitte Bardot, Roland Kirk, Cannonball Adderley, Ahmed Abdul Malik, Wonder Woman, Delacroix’s girl in the cemetery, Litri and his bullshit fighters, Florence of Arabia, Socrates, Dali, Rama, Vishnu, Ganesh, the Zork and a Milky Way of playmates. It was 1962 and I had a special crush on Marilyn.

Mati Klarwein
Grain Of Sand

Buddy Miles
Buddy Miles Live and A Message to the People

The “Buddy Miles Live” 2LP cover has the face of Buddy as the volcano and the lava is “live” and flowing down to the valley below where Buddy again is on the drums. It also has a really cool, psychedelic “Buddy Miles” logo. “A Message to the People” again has Buddy this time breathing in the fiery eruptions from multiple volcanoes. The flames have the Mati Klarwein classic naked images within.


“Heads” is the third album by British Afro-rock band Osibisa released in 1972. The Osibisa logo was created by Roger Dean. The art was composed by Mati Klarwein who put each of the band members’ “heads” in the head of and wild-looking elephant. Osibisa’s first two albums had elephants on their covers also.

Earth, Wind & Fire
Last Days And Time

Earth, Wind & Fire commissioned a cover from Mati for their 1972 album “Last Days and Time”. Again he would use the band members with one of his classic naked women. When Mati would receive the music from an album that needed a cover he would listen to it and then convey his feelings from the music in his art.

He would listen to it constantly – in the studio, the kitchen, in his car. Music was very much part of the family environment. It was African music, Spanish flamenco, classical, afrobeat, jazz, sometimes maybe some rap or hip-hop or drum and bass. People would send him cassettes from all over the world, and he would play them religiously. In his studio up in the mountains, there is a small music library, almost an entire record store. His big love was Afro-Cuban music, and I guess it’s that fusing of different cultures that made him so particular

Mati Klarwein’s Son

Other Artists

Klarwein is credited with 67 album covers in Discogs. Here are a few notable names.

  • Eric Dolphy – Iron Man – released 1968 Douglas International Label
  • The Last Poets – This Is Madness – released 1971 Douglas Records
  • Gregg Allman – Laid Back – released October 1973 by Capricorn Records
  • Jimi Hendrix – … And A Happy New Year – released December 1974 on Reprise
  • George Duke – Rendezvous – released 1984 on Epic Records
  • Muddy Waters Blues Band – Mud In Your Ear – recorded 1969 – released 2012
Click on images to enlarge

In the mid-1970s, Mati began a series of paintings that he referred to as “real-estate paintings” or “inscapes”. Klarwein has also written several books including, “Milk n’ Honey” (1973), and “Inscapes Real-Estate Paintings” (1983). In the 1980’s he began to focus on detailed landscapes, that had different perspectives and often included floral textures.

Klarwein also painted many commissioned portraits, including Robert Graves, Noël Coward, Juliette Binoche, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas, and Brigitte Bardot. He died of cancer on March 7, 2002, in Deià, on the Spanish island of Majorca. “Mati & the Music – 52 Album Covers” was released in 2012.

  1. Joseph Fernand Henri Léger (February 4, 1881 – August 17, 1955) was a French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. In his early works, he created a personal form of cubism which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style. His boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter has caused him to be regarded as a forerunner of pop art. [Back]


The Music Aficionado
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Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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