Remembering Frank Frazetta

Posted on May 11, 2010 by

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Frank Frazetta died of a stroke at 82 years old yesterday afternoon. He lived a long, and inspiring life from February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010

Frank Frzetta Paints Chained

Frank Frazetta was an artist whose work you couldn’t help but see and love. Even if you aren’t sure of his name, you have probably seen his work. He worked in paperback novels, album covers and comic books for decades.

He was only 16 when he started in comic books. Neal Adams, said he believed Frazetta was the rare individual who could bridge the vast gulf between fine art and pop illustration.

There is no one who can fill the space left empty by the passing of Frank Frazetta,” Adams said Monday. “Few have studied Classic Renaissance oil painting, and applied it so successfully. Few can draw outward from deep within their gut; very few can actually paint and draw man/woman sexual allure; nearly none can tell a story with oil paint that lets you know what is actually in the muscle and sinew of the artist.”

Though he did a lot of his work in oils, he is most commonly known for his paperback book covers. His work on Conan would prove to be a huge step forward for him. After that he started working with various other writers and series of paperback books. He redefined the entire genre of the time with his amazing paintings, and sometimes pen & ink illustrations for these same books.

His cover art surprisingly went so well with the storylines, as Frazetta once explained: “I didn’t read any of it… I drew him my way. It was really rugged. And it caught on. I didn’t care about what people thought. People who bought the books never complained about it. They probably didn’t read them.

John Milius, director and co-writer of “Conan the Barbarian,” the 1982 film, said on Monday it was Frazetta’s muscular paintings of Conan that defined the character for him and modern generations of fans.

Not that I could ever redo Frazetta on film — he created a world and a mood that are impossible to simulate — but my goal in ‘Conan the Barbarian’ was to tell a story that was shaped by Frazetta and Wagner,” Milius said. “Frazetta’s work is classified as illustration and there’s a connotation that goes with that, that it’s somehow lesser, but I think there are few artists in recent generations– especially painters — whose work really stays with you. I would compare Frazetta to Maxfield Parrish or Ferderic Remington. These are the kinds of artists who work goes forward. The number of imitators alone speak to their talent.

Once his reputation was in place, Frazetta began working for Hollywood on movie posters, as well as his paintings being used for album covers. His work can be seen on albums such as  Molly Hatchet’s first two albums, Dust’s second album, Hard Attack, and Nazareth’s 1977 album Expect No Mercy.

His movie posters credit such films as What’s New Pussycat?, Yours, Mine and Ours, Fire and Ice, and many many more. ‘What’s New Pussycat?‘ being his first one where he earned his whole years salary in an afternoon.

Guillermo del Toro, said that Frazetta was nothing less than “an Olympian artist that defined fantasy art for the 20th century.” The filmmaker said Frazetta’s influence is difficult to explain to people outside the fantasy world, just as Norman Rockwell would be an elusive figure to define for someone unfamiliar with the U.S. heartland.

He gave the world a new pantheon of heroes,” the filmmaker said by e-mail. “He took the mantle from J. Allen St. John and Joseph Clement Coll and added blood, sweat and sexual power to their legacy…. He somehow created a second narrative layer for every book he ever illustrated.

Frazetta is survived by two sons, Frank and William;  two daughters, Heidi  and Holly; and 11 grandchildren.

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Posted in: Artist Features