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From Santana’s Abraxas to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and beyond, painter Mati Klarwein created provocative images that often fused the sacred and the profane. Teri Saccone meets his son, Balthazar

A perennial outsider who led a peripatetic existence, Matthias Klarwein was born in 1932 in Hamburg to a Polish Jewish architect father, who was a member of the Bauhaus movement, and a German opera-singer mother. he family escaped the Nazis in 1934, moving to pre- Israel Palestine. At 16, Mati’s parents separated, so he and his mother moved again, settling in Paris while his father remained in Israel. Klarwein attended the École des Beaux-Arts, then studied wiThartist Fernand Léger.

Klarwein globe-trotted extensively, befriending legendary painters such as Salvador Dali and Ernst Fuchs, the former becoming a dear friend and the latter teaching him how to paint like the Old Masters.

Klarwein moved to New York in the late 50s, immersing himself in the buzzing Manhattan music and art scenes. His career took of exponentially in New York. Although his paintings graced no fewer than 52 album covers, Klarwein also created landscapes and still lifes, and commissioned portraits. Jimi Hendrix, Brigitte Bardot, JFK, Leonard Bernstein, Michael Douglas and Richard Gere were among his subjects. Andy Warhol commented that: “Mati is the most famous unknown painter in the world,” before his eventual rise to fame.

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