In Memoriam: Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

We are deeply saddened to report that legendary artist Frank Frazetta passed away this afternoon due to complications from a stroke. He was 82 years old.

Frazetta was drawing professionally as a teenager in the 40s. He worked for outfits like EC and National, lending a hand to strips like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Not throwbacks, mind; the originals. Though he spent much of his career working on cartoon strips and comic book interiors from a wide array of genres, he is perhaps best known for his oil paintings. Utilized to cover everything from pulp novels, comics, LP's and the walls of fine art galleries, Frazetta's paintings often depicted fantasy at its grandest scale. Not that he only illustrated loinclothed warriors like Conan. He painted cowboys and rocket riders too. But  it all boiled down to fantasy  and gravitas. And most of all, adventure.

I'm not sure when I saw my first Frazetta. It was probably despite all my mother's best efforts to the contrary. Maybe it was one of the countless coffee table books collecting his many R-rated portraits of barbarians and their girlfriends. It could've just as easily been the cover of a VHS tape at the West Coast video. Or a calendar. Or an old poster hanging in the body shop around the corner from my dad's garage. It was almost certainly in the 80s, and maybe because the way generations work, that kind of stuff was getting a lot of fanfare. Some of these paintings had dried on an easel in the 60s, but they still felt fresh and vibrant and powerful when I first layed eyes on them twenty or more years later.

Those images were exciting, and not simply because I probably shouldn't have been looking at them at that particular age, but because they were so raw and exuded such ferocity. They were strong in ways that only Biblical portraiture was. Thundercats were pretty cool, but they didn't get the attention to detail, the seriousness, that was lent to characters like Conan or Tarzan or whatever rough and tumble hero Frazetta was chronicling in oil. Fantasy by its very definition ought to be larger than life and this guy got that. It didn't hurt that he could draw the most dangerously erotic women I'd ever seen, by both their proximity to lunging pumas or dragons, as well as their own epic curves. Some of 'em were pretty good looking, but most of them scared the bejesus out of me. I think it has less to do with misogyny and much more to do with the universal power of sex. Even the panthers look like they're ready to get it on. I think that's all tied up in the whole idea of Frazetta. These paintings are timeless in that they're a little bit taboo. Mature readers only. But part of their power is the cocktail of dread and titilation. And that speaks entirely to youthful curiosity and wonder and rebellion. That's where fantasy kind of lives, really. It's primal. 

Even beyond the incredible handle on the imagination, Frazetta was just a damned skilled artist. A real craftsman with a supernatural ability for classic painting. If Alex Ross is grand, Frazetta was that and dynamic. Sort of a Caravaggio of the dungeon realms. He's to Hyperborea what Norman Rockwell is to America. He's the battle-axe sunk hilt deep in the apple pie.  

The man leaves behind so many incredible images, some of which are still appearing on the covers of modern comics and Wolfmother albums. You couldn't leverage the value of your house to get your hands on some of these paintings. Would there be a Frank Cho without Frank Frazetta? Would there be totally awesome airbrushed vans? Would there be Conan comics? Dragons? Yes, probably. Just not nearly as badass. Not nearly. 

We raise our goblets to you, Frank. But you're probably too busy riding naked along the shore of a distant three-mooned planet, having leapt through the canvas and into some wild new frontier. 

Thank you for daring to share your daydreams and for inspiring so many more. 

Comments

  1. I’m left speechless… the world of fantasy just feels less now…

  2. goodbye to one of the greats

  3. Fuck.

     

    Godspeed, Frank. We love you. 

  4. I was just looking at Frazetta stuff on the web this past weekend. Sad, sad news, but at least the art will live on.

    If you can, check out the Frazetta documentary, Painting With Fire. It’s available on Netflix as the second disc with the movie he worked on, Fire and Ice. Amazing insight to the artist.

  5. Wow, i gasped when i saw this. I haven’t done that since Mike Weiringo died

  6. Rest now, Mr. Frazetta. You will be missed.

    They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.

  7. R.I.P Frank. Like you Paul, his countless images captured my imagination and would find myself enthralled by the possibilities of the story that went along with the images he painted.

    His Conan is forever in my mind’s eye as the definitive version of the character.this one is from 1968!!!          http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/fantasy/images/FrankFrazetta-Conan-the-Avenger-1968.jpg

  8. damn, I was just getting to know this guy’s work. 

    So sad… 

  9. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Jesse – Fantastic! So enthralled by the teamup of the crocodile and octopus that I nearly overlooked the naked woman. 

  10. This world just became a little less awesome. Damn shame.

    Here’s to knowing that his version of the Great Beyond is too cool for words. 

  11. If anyone could open our eyes and minds, even just a little, to the realm of the Jungian collective subconscience, it was Frank. Ave atque vale, pictor.

  12. Truely a great loss. This is the man who taught me to draw. As many art students copy the masters like Da Vinci and Michael Angelo I copied the works of Frazetta. No one, at least in my opinion, has captured the dynamism of the human form like he did. I keep a few of his art books at my desk at work. I think I will spend the rest of the afternoon looking through them.

  13. Every lining thing in this world must see Fire & Ice, the animated movie that was a collaboration between Frazetta and Ralph Bakshi. It was a Frazetta painting come to life, and you even see a cameo from one of his most famous paintings, Death Dealer.

     

    I have to recheck my sources, but I heard that he suffered a stroke years ago which more or less immobilized the hand that he painted with. But instead of retiring, he just learned to paint with his other hand and went back to work! Frazetta was such an inspiration, I was a huge fan of his artwork and I’ll miss him. 

  14. Definitely sad news.  He was an inspiration for so many.  He will be sorely missed.

  15. Later, Frank. Well done.

  16. Frazetta’s women made a man out fo me in the mid 80s.  A true master.

    RIP

  17. @comicBOOKchris yes he lerned to paint with his left hand without the loss of quality. He talked about that in his documentary. Freakin phenomenal!

  18. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Art finds a way. 

  19. As someone who grew up not knowing who Frank was, I was however fascinated by his art. So many classic pieces. His creations are so realistic and beautifully dangerous that they’re impossible to ignore. And once I discovered their author I became even more impressed. Such an interesting creator. He will be missed.

  20. Posted this one Twitter, but… the dudes’ stuff is seriously etched into my brain. Frazetta shaped Sci-Fi and Fantasy for so many of us. As a kid who got into fantasy novels fairly early on, I spent a lot of time staring at those pulpy covers. A true loss. 

  21. raise your goblets and slam your battle axes against your shields. May the songs of thunder comfort his spirit! (Viking Scream)

  22. we’ll always have that amazing art to remind us of Mr. Frazetta’s talent.  smooth voyage good sir.

  23. I just started getting into the creepy archives and I gotta say this is such a shock.  A real lose for all of us.

  24. Goodbye.

  25. So much influence. We all owe so much of our own imaginations from Frazetta. RIP

  26. Truly a modern master whose influence extends to people who don’t even realize who he was. How many of his images were burned into our young eyes and minds. He will be missed. I hope he didn’t suffer much from the nonsense his children caused at the end. 

  27. I shall celebrate his life by riding a lizard horse while drinking ale under the three moons tonight!

    Seriously it’s sad to hear that Frazetta passed.  His artwork is amazing and it’s sad to know that no more will be made.  At least we can appreciate all of the work he left us. 

  28. the Death Dealer rides on….

  29. Crazy…I was just looking through my collection of Frazetta trading cards yesterday.

     

  30. To a Fantastic After-Life!!!

    His art is amazing. He had this classic style that is under apreciated nowadays. It’s not so sad to see him go he had a good life and left behind a legacy that will not easily be forgotten. I pour out my Mead to you good Sir.

  31. The members of Molly Hatchet are inconsolable.

  32. One of the greatest Illustrators/painters ever, I just gave a report on him for my illustration class. This saddens me greatly.

  33. Aww. Thats awful, I always loved his work.

  34. If you guys ever get a chance check out his work on DC’s character The Shining Knight in the 40’s,  truly amazing stuff….

  35. Who has been getting the Frazetta cover series from Image comics?  I admit they’re not the greatest comics ever, but they are a great way to celebrate the work of this wonderful artist.  To any Frazetta fan, I recommend those. To anyone with at least a fleeting interest in Conan,  the Conan Frazetta cover series from dark horse is a nice package as well.

  36. I’d like to add that I LOVE Frazetta women, as they are hot, curvey, strong and beautifully real!

  37. Of all me heros, Frazetta was there hero.  He was the man who laid a mighty foundation and an awesome legacy.  A lot of things I love and cherish in the world of art owe their genesis to Frank Frazetta.  For this I thank you.  You have made the world a more magnificent place.

  38. Great artist.

    Rest In Peace

  39. Frazetta was fantasy illustration. The defining artist of the genre. Will be sadly missed.

  40. Truly sad.

  41. IT SUCKS TO LOOSE YOUR HERO R.I.P. MASTER FRAZETTA!!