Bands looking to bring a little visual flair to their album covers have long pillaged art history for iconic imagery. Who is the artist whose work is most often used on record sleeves? Bosch is a favourite, as is Escher – but it’s Magritte who’s top of the pops. We counted over 25 instances of his paintings being used on LPs from Jeff Beck’s Beck-Ola to Jackson Browne’s Late For The Sky.
Here’s ten more famous paintings used on record covers:
1. Liberty Leading The People, Delacroix
2. The Raft of the Medusa, Gericault
The Pogues, Rum Sodomy & The Lash
An epochal political painting is altered to feature the faces of Shane MacGowan and band. This kind of “insert band in famous painting” motif occurs a lot when rock stars and canvas interface. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is…
3. Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe, Manet
Bow Wow Wow, See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah. City All Over! Go Ape Crazy
A controversial cover instigated by arch provocateur (and Bow Wow Wow manager) Malcolm McLaren, which almost got him arrested, as lead singer Anabelle Lwin was only 14 when she posed in a recreation of Manet’s masterpiece.
4. Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, Renoir
Rod Stewart, A Night On The Town
Another example of a pop star inserting himself into a classic painting, here we have the Rod the Mod’s idiosyncratic visage “enhancing” Renoir’s great work of early impressionism.
5. Roses in a Dish, Fantin-Latour
New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies
Peter Saville’s cover designs for New Order are almost as iconic as the artworks he drew influence from. Apparently, the National Heritage Fund, who owned Fantin-Latour’s lushly beautiful still life, initially refused permission for the painting to be used on the band’s album sleeve. The head of New Order’s label, Tony Wilson, then called them up to ask who actually owned the painting and was told that the Trust belonged to the people of Britain. Wilson replied, “Well, the people of Britain now want it.”
6. The Veteran in a New Field, Homer
Tom Petty, Southern Accents
A self-taught artist, Winslow Homer had only been painting for 5 years when he created this wonderful work, later used on Tom Petty’s 1985 album Southern Accents.
7. School of Athens, Raphael
Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion
Obviously, when one thinks of Raphael’s iconic portrayal of Aristotle, Plato and other ancient thinkers deep in philosophical discussion, one doesn’t necessarily think of Guns N’ Roses – yet a detail from the painting was, rather bafflingly, featured on the band’s two Use Your Illusion albums.
8. Bacchus and Ariadne, Titian
Crash Test Dummies, God Shuffled His Feet
Another example of “band inserts itself into painting” – though one would be hard pushed to identify any of the Crash Test Dummies here, renowned as they were for just one hit, the distinctly irritating and un-Titian-like Mmm Mmm Mmm.
9. The Garden of Earthly Delights: Hell, Bosch
Deep Purple, third album
A seriously hellish painting for a seriously hellish slab of rock.
10. Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear, Van Gogh
Joni Mitchell, Turbulent Indigo
A final example of a singer inserting themselves into a famous painting – but it’s a good one. Joni-as-Vincent is brilliantly done, and a sly comment on the image of the “tortured artist”.