The Michael Werner Gallery in New York confirmed Van Vliet's death Friday in California due to complications stemming from multiple sclerosis. The gallery exhibits his paintings.
Van Vliet was probably best known for the album "Trout Mask Replica," which was released in 1969 by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.
The album's angular, dissonant take on blues rock and its surreal lyrics put Van Vliet outside the mainstream, but staked his place in rock history.
In the 1980s, Van Vliet turned full-time to drawing and painting. He is survived by his wife of more than 40 years.