Van Vliet died in California from complications stemming from multiple sclerosis, according to the Michael Werner Gallery in New York. The gallery exhibits his paintings.
Van Vliet's best known work was his 1969 album, Trout Mask Replica. Rolling Stone recently ranked the album as number 58 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
He served as a role model for other musicians because he shunned commercial success and is cited as an influence on the rise of punk, post-punk and new wave.
Van Vliet turned full-time to art in the 1980s, painting acclaimed expressionistic works.
He is survived by his wife of more than 40 years.