Guy Peellaert is most famous as an illustrator and album cover designer for various rock artists, such as David Bowie, Willy DeVille and The Rolling Stones. He is renowned for his work with pastel, airbrush and photographic collage. Yet he was also briefly active as a comics artist in the late 1960s, making such psychedelica and pop art-influenced stories as 'Les Aventures de Jodelle' (1966), 'Pravade, la survireuse' (1967), 'The Game' (1968) and 'SHE and the Green Rairs' (1968).
Guy Louis Peellaert was born in Brussels in 1934. Despite being born in a rich, bourgeois family he favored becoming an artist. He studied Decorative Arts at Saint Luc in Brussels, where he excelled in painting murals. After World War Two, Peellaert became enamoured by cinema. He visited the film theaters in Brussels several times a week and especially admired the poster art on display. The young artist also adored noir novels, rhythm and blues and especially early rock 'n' roll, which encouraged him to rebel against his posh and strict upbringing. In 1953, he joined a voluntary military mission to fight during the Korean War.
He returned to Belgium in 1955, where he worked as a commercial designer for the National Theater of Belgium and for fashion designer Denis Martin. He made several designs for the Walloon public TV channel RTB, calenders of the airline company Sabena and various Belgian, French and German magazines. Among his main graphic influences were Thomas Hart Benton, Reginald Marsh, John Heartfield, Edward Hopper, Raymond Savignac, René Magritte and - from the early 1960s on - the pop art movement popularized by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. He started imitating the film poster style and depicting more Hollywood celebrities and rock and roll stars in his art.
In 1966 Peellaert made a brief entry into comics. His first comic strip, 'Les Aventures de Jodelle' (1966), appeared in Hara-Kiri (the precessor of Charlie-Hebdo), and was scripted by Pierre Barbier. The heroine in this erotic story, with influences from psychedelia and pop art, was modelled after French singer Sylvie Vartan. True to the counterculture of the time period, the comic had a free-spirited attitude and satirized symbols of the more old-fashioned and repressive mainstream culture, such as Pope Paul VI, Jesus Christ, president Charles De Gaulle and Lyndon B. Johnson. The comic was translated and received excellent reviews by none other than novelist Umberto Eco and film director Federico Fellini, who described Peellaert's oeuvre as "the literature of intelligence, fantasy and romanticism". A follow-up, 'Pravda, la survireuse' (1967) was published in the same magazine, but this time with Pascal Thomas as scriptwriter. The sexy protagonist took her looks from French singer Françoise Hardy. In 1968, Hara-Kiri published two other comics by Peellaert, namely 'The Game' (1968) and 'SHE and the Green Rairs' (1968), the latter being a collaboration with Roger Wolfs.
Around the same time, Peellaert animated the opening titles and other cartoons for Alain Jessua's film 'Jeu de Massacre' (1967). At the end of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s, a couple of his experimental books appeared: 'Carashi!' (1969), which consisted of redesigned photos, and 'Bye, bye, bye Baby, bye, bye' (1973), which used a hyper-realistic style. He then disappeared from the comic world to work in theater and television.
Peellaert is most famous for his pop-art paintings of rock legends. He made album covers for David Bowie ('Diamond Dogs' in 1974, 'Bowie at the Beeb' in 2000), Willy DeVille ('Horse of a Different Color', 1999) and The Rolling Stones ('It's Only Rock 'n' Roll', 1974). The same year he also published the book 'Rock Dreams' (1974), written by Nik Cohn, which was full with airbrush paintings featuring such stars like Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Mick Jagger, put together in fantasy situations. A photo from The Beatles' 'A Hard Day's Night' (1964) was for instance redrawn to depict them being chased by a policeman. The circle was brought round again when the pop group Frankie Goes To Hollywood named itself after the Peellaert painting 'Frank Sinatra', which features the headline "Frankie Goes Hollywood".
Other books in his pastel, airbrush and collage style are 'Las Vegas. The Big Room' (1986, with text by Michael Herr), 'Dreams of the 20th Century' (1999, with text by Nik Cohn) and 'Fashion Dreams' (2008). He also designed several movie posters, like for Martin Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver' (1976), Francis Ford Coppola's 'One From The Heart' (1982) and 'The Outsiders' (1983), Wim Wenders' 'Der Amerikanische Freund' (1977) and 'Paris, Texas' (1984), Stephen Frears' 'My Beautiful Laundrette' (1985) and Robert Altman's 'Short Cuts' (1994).
His work has furthermore been exhibited all over the globe, from New York over Havana to Tokyo. Peellaert died from cancer in 2008.