Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, most famous for his album cover illustrations of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock 'n' Roll and his ground breaking art book Rock Dreams, died this past Monday of kidney cancer in Paris. He was 74.
Born in Brussels in 1934 into an aristocratic family, Peellaert broke with his family as a teenager, first by entering the military, then by choosing an art career over his father’s demands to pursue a career in medicine. Peellaert first major success was the comic strip, Les Aventures de Jodelle, published in 1966 in the French magazine Hara-Kiri. The central character, Jodelle, was modeled after Ye-Ye singer Sylvie Vartan. Peellart's second comic strip, Pravda, again modeled the heroine after a French singer, the iconic Françoise Hardy. In the 1970’s Peellaert went on to design movie posters for such films as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver; Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire and Robert Altman's Short Cuts.
But Peellaert is best known for his rock album covers -- especially his controversial Diamond Dogs design from 1974. The gate-fold cover features Bowie as a half-man, half-dog grotesque. Peellaert painted in a photo-realistic style and the controversy stems from how well he flaunted the hybrid genitalia. I guess that was something of a no-no in the early 1970’s. A few copies of the original cover inexplicably survived, today they fetch upwards of a few thousand dollars each. The initial RCA release had the genitalia airbrushed out, but the recent reissue on Rykodisc/EMI revives the original artwork.
Guy Peellaert exhibited internationally and his work was compiled into several best selling books, the most popular being Rock Dreams written with British rock journalist Nic Cohn, which launched the demand for Peellaert's illustrations. The book eventually sold a million copies.
Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Elizabeth, and a son Orson, named after one of his idols, Orson Welles.