Friday, May 14, 2010

The Great Frazetta (1928 - 2010)

The Leopard has many artistic heroes: John Singer Sargent, Picasso, Hopper, Wyeth, Basquiat and many, many others, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that chief among them is the brilliant painter Frank Frazetta. Frank began his career as a comic book artist, then as assistant to the great cartoonist Al Capp on Li'l Abner and as an illustrator of science fiction and fantasy paperback book covers for characters like Tarzan and most famously, Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian. Frank's beautiful covers were so successful in the marketplace that he eventually would come to create the covers first, and then writers were assigned to come up with the novels!

From a very young age - around fifteen, I appreciated his wonderful color palette,  the amazing power and movement of his images and the sexiness of his figures, especially the thick, fleshy allure of his women.

Frank was not exactly politically correct. His depiction of blacks and Asians were mostly derogatory and his women were there for the sexual pleasure of the muscular heroes and the fanboys like myself who bought every magazine, calendar and book where his images were reproduced.   But Frank was a product of his time, having grown up in Brooklyn in the late twenties a child prodigy who was also a scrappy neighborhood kid who played backlot baseball and was good enough to be once considered by the majors.

Frazetta's work to me was so remarkably advanced that I knew even as a child I would never come close to matching his talent.  But he became the measurement with which I compared all others. and despite an army of imitators over the years, I have yet to see his match in fantasy art.

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