Legendary poster artist Stanley Mouse, who helped shape the psychedelic aesthetic of the ’60s working with artists like the Grateful Dead, has suffered a “debilitating” stroke, according to a statement posted to his social media accounts. The post said he is currently “working on recovering but is unsure if he will regain the ability to draw again.”
Mouse, 82, was one of the “Big Five” psychedelic poster artists of the 1960s alongside Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, and Alton Kelley. His artistic influence has been hugely pervasive for the past 60 years, but he is perhaps best known for his role in creating the Grateful Dead’s iconography with Kelley, including the ice cream kid and rainbow foot featured on the cover of the band’s landmark Europe ’72 live album and the skeleton and roses (or skull and roses), which was inspired by an illustration by British artist Edmund Joseph that the two discovered in an 11th-century collection of Persian poetry.
They first saw the image in a 1913 edition of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. “We saw that skeleton and said, ‘This says Grateful Dead all over it — we have to use this,’” Mouse told Rolling Stone in 2022. Unfortunately, the book was too old and valuable to be checked out of the library where they found it, so Kelley cut the drawing out of the book with a pen knife and took it home.
They used the art to create a poster for the Dead’s show at the Avalon Ballroom in September 1966, adding color and lettering after making a copy with a pre-xerox Photostat machine, and the band later adopted a cropped version of the skull and roses as its logo. One of the original posters from 1966 sold at auction for a whopping $56,000 in 2019.
Mouse and Kelley worked as a pair designing art for San Francisco concert promoters like Bill Graham in addition to bands.
The announcement of Mouse’s stroke said, “He would like to thank all of the people who have shown him support and love throughout his career as an artist.” It also said he will continue to sell existing art on his website. Anyone wishing to support Mouse and his family as he recovers can do so by purchasing his artwork here.
View this post on Instagram