Abdul Mati Klarwein, born Matias Klarwein (April 9, 1932 – March 7, 2002) was a painter best known for his works used on the covers of music albums.
Klarwein was born in Hamburg, Germany. His family was of Jewish origin and fled to the British Mandate of Palestine when he was two years old, after the rise of Nazi Germany. In 1948 when the territory became Israel, his family traveled to Paris. There Mati studied with Fernand Léger, after attending the École des Beaux-Arts. Klarwein traveled south to Saint-Tropez and met Ernst Fuchs, who would have a profound influence on him. Leaving France in the 1950s, Klarwein traveled widely and lived in many different countries, including Tibet, India, Bali, North Africa, Turkey, Europe and the Americas. He eventually settled in New York City in the early 1960s.
Much of Klarwein's most famous work is inspired by surrealism and pop culture, but also reflects his interest in non-Western deities, symbolism, and landscapes. The alleged connection between Klarwein and the so-called psychedelic art of the period is not entirely unfounded, as he has detailed his experience with LSD in his 1988 book Collected Works; however, Klarwein also explains that drugs were never his prime inspirational source, and in one interview, denies their influence entirely.
Klarwein's painting Annunciation (1961) was seen in reproduction by the musician Carlos Santana, who subsequently used it as the cover image of his band Santana's second album Abraxas (1970). In the following years Klarwein produced comparably striking designs for the covers of two Miles Davis albums, Bitches Brew (1969) and Live-Evil (1971), as well as a portrait of Jimi Hendrix, which was supposed to have been used for the guitarist's collaboration album with big band leader Gil Evans, which never came to fruition due to the guitarist's death. His painting Zonked (1970), originally planned for use on a Betty Davis album of the same name, would later be used as the cover of a Last Poets album Holy Terror (1995). The association of his images with these very successful and widely admired counterculture musicians made Klarwein's work known outside the circle of lovers of contemporary art. Many of these paintings, and others, were included in Klarwein's first book Milk n' Honey (1973).
During the 1960s and 70s, Klarwein would occasionally search for cheap paintings at flea markets and "improve" them, painting over them or adding things at his whim. Klarwein made over a hundred of these "improved paintings" throughout his career.
In the mid-1970s, Klarwein began a series of paintings which he referred to as "real-estate paintings" or "inscapes". In the late 1970s he collaborated with trumpeter Jon Hassell for a couple albums on Brian Eno's Ambient label; these albums used several of Klarwein's "inscapes" on their covers. Klarwein also contributed art to three albums by Per Tjernberg.
Klarwein is still best known for his art of the 1960s and 1970s, with its clear links to surrealism, popular psychedelic imagery, and religious art from a number of different traditions. He also worked more conventionally across a variety of genres including still life, landscape, and portrait.
He died of cancer on March 7, 2002, in Deià, on the Spanish island of Majorca.
- Milk n' Honey (1973) Harmony Books, New York
- God Jokes (1976) Harmony Books, New York
- Inscapes: Real-Estate Paintings (1983) Harmony Books, New York
- Collected Works 1959-1975 (1988) Raymond Martin Press, Germany
- A Thousand Windows and Improved Paintings: Bad Paintings Made Gooder (1995) Max Publishing, Spain
- Improved Paintings 1979-2000 (2000) Max Publishing, Spain
- Paradise Lost and Found (2005) ISBN 84-96430-13-8
- True Visions (2006) (Erik Davis and Pablo Echaurren) (Betty Books) ISBN 88-902372-0-1