Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta, 1928-2010

Frank Frazetta, the most influential American illustrator of the late 20th Century after Norman Rockwell, has died at the age of 82. Here is a link to the New York Times obituary .

Frazetta was a remarkable athlete when he was young and hoped to play major league baseball, and had a tryout with the New York Giants. But it was as an illustrator that he excelled even more, and he worked in New York early in his career connected to many famous publications. He was a ghost illustrator for Al Capp for years, and it is his work that define the signature seductive drawings of Daisy Mae and Moonbeam McSwine in the Li'l Abner cartoons of the 1950's. He also worked at MAD magazine during that era, but his greatest successes came in the late 1960's when he began to draw movie posters and paintings that would become the covers for fantasy paperbacks. Most famously, his covers in the 1960's helped introduce a new generation of readers to the work of a writer of pulp fiction from Texas who died young back in the 1930's, Robert E. Howard and his major creation, a barbarian from the fictional land of Cimmeria named Conan. His artwork also helped revive a character of Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

Frazetta covers became much in demand, and Frank had the good sense to make sure he owned the rights to the original paintings, many of which have sold for princely sums in recent years. A stroke took his good right hand from him a few years back, and determined athlete that he was, Frazetta learned to paint with his left hand. The later work is virtually indistinguishable from the work of his glory days. As he said, it was the same eye and the same brain doing the work, only the hand had changed.

I have not published much in the way of nude art on this blog, and I don't plan to make a habit of it, but an artist like Frank Frazetta passes this way only once, and in honor of him I put up this illustration of his that appeared in a men's magazine back in the 1950's, his visual interpretation of Charles Baudelaire's poem The Giantess from his book The Flowers of Evil. Longtime readers will recall I did the lolz giantess version of the same work.

Best wishes to the family and friends of the great Frank Frazetta, from a fan.

There will never be another like him.


Anonymous said...

Glad you posted a note about Frank's passing since it seems to have slipped through the fingers of broadcast media. I suppose that there were just too many "important" things happening in the world to stop and note the passing of a real legend. It really is the ultimate snub when the death of someone of such rare ability and influential style is passed over by the network news divisions because they consider them to be of interest only to comic book fans. Philistines.

- AP

Matty Boy said...

Hi, AP. I'm also disappointed that Frazetta's passing has been so little noted. Some of my other blog buddies have nerdish tendencies, but not many have mentioned it.

I hadn't heard about his son trying to steal his dad's paintings late last year, which is a very sad story I didn't include in my short obituary. Didn't want to spoil a tribute to a favorite artist.

Eric said...

It'd be hard to overstate Franzetta's impact on modern fantasy illustration.

Thanks for helping let people know of the passing of one of the greats.

Margaret Benbow said...

Matty, thank you for the fine tribute to him. To my mind he was the greatest and best in his field.