Frank Frazetta painted The Death Dealer with oil in 1973; it was featured as cover art for the band Molly Hatchet. In 1985, The Death Dealer also became the mascot for different military regiments in the USA, such as a full size steel replica standing outside the III Corps headquarters building in Fort Hood, Texas, and also features as mascot for the United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron HMMT-164. The Death Dealer has appeared in numerous comics and statues over the years.
The Death Dealer painting is among Frazetta’s most iconic and one of the first people think about when mentioning the artist. What makes this painting so particularly memorable is the strong Gothic element conspiring towards an almost supernatural effect of foreboding terror and finality. What we are led to believe is a man, whose eyes burn like red embers through his horned helm and brandishing an executioner’s axe, stares balefully towards the viewer in an eerie and deathly silence. At this point Johnny Cash’s lyrics “sooner or later, God will cut you down” seems most suitable.
This figure of imminent, unquenchable slaughter and destruction is mirrored by the grim wasteland he inhabits. To put it simply, the figure is death personified in its most macabre manifestation. No identity and no purpose apart from a dealer in death. The intricacy and exoticism of the figure’s armor, apparel, sinister steed and weaponry tells us he has been dealing death in distant, foreign lands. All these elements combine to make this work unique in its psychological effect on the individual’s imagination and innate fear of death.Frank Frazetta
The oldest of four children and the only boy in the family, Frank Frazzetta (he would later drop one of the "z"s) was born on the 9th day of February, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. Frank discovered the wonders of art before he was three, when he sold his first crayon drawing to Grandma - for the tidy sum of one penny. It was her interest and encouragement that prompted him to continue drawing through those early years. When he hit kindergarten, his teachers were astounded that there was a child only 5 1/2 drawing better than ten-year-olds. Throughout elementary school, Frazetta created his very own comic books, featuring a snowman and an array of assorted characters.
Frazetta broke the mold of traditional illustrators and set his own standards, amazed industry insiders and fans alike and sparked the imagination of a generation as his work proved to ignite a groundswell of enthusiasm for the ideas pouring from his palette.
No one transfers more life to paper or canvas than Frazetta; this is his magical gift. Life delights in life. Frazetta is able to communicate the vitality, energy, humor, mystery, and enchantment of life better than any other artist.
Frazetta explores the beauty of simple gestures: a look, a glance, a smile, a certain attitude or pose. Frazetta's brush dips directly into his imagination; the original energy of his inspiration is immediately conveyed via line and color without the diluting reliance on models, studies, swipes or photo reference. This is the essence of genuine creativity, a very rare gift which is never derivative, never repetitive, and never boring. These are the creations that are born from a powerful imagination at play, indulging his powers for his own amusement and the delight of his family.
Many of these are works of originality and finesse; their charm is unmatched. The compositions are gracefully executed, with elegance and magical expressiveness in a style that beguiles the viewer and whisks one to flights of delicious fancy. Intricate colorations and subtle, blended tints give emotional coloring to each distinctive scene. The sparkle and splendor of color is apparent in every composition. The expressiveness of color and its emotional impact is all part of Frazetta's mastery.
Another key ingredient in these watercolors is the Frazetta line (which is the envy of countless artists) . Frazetta's line is almost superhuman in its delicacy and fluidity; it is always correct, elegant and pulsing with energy. The ink appears to dance on the surface of the paper; it is musical and rhythmic, never static. Frazetta's line evokes life and embodies beauty no matter what the subject matter. How he does it is a complete mystery.
When art does not go beyond surface appeal or fancy detail then what remains is at best decorative. No contact is made with the true imaginative forces underneath. Frazetta's line is born in those imaginative forces and, consequently, possesses the evocative magic that produces romance, adventure and joyous fantasy.
Frazetta's form and figures are never artificial or superficial; instead , they draw us in, seduce the eye, and provide lasting pleasure. As with all of Frazetta's art, one is immediately impressed with the simple beauty of his creations, from the tiniest cluster of mushrooms to the voluptuous nymph. Frazetta's unique rhythm, harmony and grace always produce a beautiful result. These little treasures reveal Frazetta at his lyrical best, and they represent a very important pat of his artistic character that is often overlooked.
Those who are close to Frazetta realize that this volume contains the real Frazetta, a man who delights in giving joy and cheer and gentle wonder. Frazetta is a wonderfully complex man: extremely intelligent, witty, competitive, articulate, highly sensitive, and a born raconteur.
Any artist's work is profoundly autobiographical; it reveals his vision, his insight, his soul. If an artist is dull, mediocre or uninspired, then those are the qualities that will emerge in his art. What goes into the art will ultimately be what comes out of the art. With Frazetta, what emerges is a man whose heart is bursting with life; he lives with great intensity and passion. It is not surprising that the most common theme found in all of Frazetta's art, from the slightest sketch to the most ambitious composition, is a sense of life.
This is the reason why Frazetta is appreciated throughout the world.
Through simple line and color, Frazetta fills a page with the explosive resonances of life itself. All his work is charged with this special quality, From animals to nudes to fairies to exotic vegetation. Everything is alive! The possibilities of life itself explode from his brush; Frazetta shows us what we have never seen and makes us believe it can be. The magic of art is that we can also share in the artist's gift; our imaginations respond to creative power, power that Frazetta has in abundance.
Frank Frazetta deserves to be celebrated, revered and cherished as a national treasure. For 50 years he has graced us with a long procession of distinctive, memorable images. An artist often strives for a lifetime to produce one lasting image ( usually unsuccessfully ); Frazetta does it routinely. This volume adds to that wealth of remarkable images. The art is timeless; its spirit of fantasy and gentle joy is equally timeless. Frazetta is a dreamer who caresses our eyes with pure enchantment.Frank Frazetta: Comics, Girls & Baseball
The oldest of four children and the only boy in the family, Frank Frazzetta (he would later drop one of the "z"s) was born on the 9th day of February, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, discovered the wonders of drawing before he was three, when he sold his first crayon drawing to Grandma - for the tidy sum of one penny. It was through her interest and encouragement, that he continued his drawings through those early years. When he hit kindergarten, his teachers were astounded that there was a child only 5 1/2 drawing better than ten-year-olds. Throughout Elementary School, Frazetta created comic books with the main character a snowman and an array of assorted characters.
Frazetta began drawing his own comic books around the age of six. Intricate, labor-intensive colored pencil stories featuring his original characters like "Snowman" and "The Red Devil & Goldy" [sic] still exist and exhibit a level of style and sophistication that is amazing. One of his sisters would often take Frank's home-drawn comics and trade them to other kids for their store-bought issues of Famous Funnies. Frazetta's artistic ability wasn't a secret to his elementary school teachers. "Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving were my big days, " he remembers "I guess I drew more Santa's, bunnies, and turkeys on blackboards than anyone could count. At the insistence of one of my teachers, my parents enrolled me in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts when I was eight. The Academy was little more than a one floor/three room affair with a total of thirty students ranging in age from eight–me!–to eighty. I still remember the Professor Michele [Michael] Falanga's look of skepticism as I signed in. He was rolling his eyes and you could almost see the thought balloon over his head, "Oh no! Not another child prodigy!" He sat me down with a pencil and paper and asked me to copy a postcard featuring a group of realistically rendered ducks. When he returned later to see how far I had progressed, he snatched up my drawing exclaiming, "Mama mia!" and ran off waving it in the air, calling everyone over to look at it. I thought I was in some kind of trouble ."
Falanga, a fine artist of some renown in his native Italy, was impressed with Frazetta's natural ability and believed he had tremendous potential. "He died when I was twelve," Frank explains, "right about the time he was making arrangements to send me off to Italy at his own expense to study fine art. I haven't the vaguest idea of whether it would have really affected my areas of interest. I don't know, but I doubt it. You see, we never had any great conversations.
He might look over your shoulder and say. "Very nice, but perhaps if you did this or that..." He spoke very broken English and he kind of left you on your own. I think I learned more from my friends there, especially Albert Pucci. Falanga would look at some of the comics stuff I was doing and say, "What a waste, what a waste! You should be in Italy and paint the street scene and become a very famous fine artiste!" And that didn't thrill me! After he died the students tried to keep the school going; we had become such close friends that we couldn't bear to close up shop so we all chipped in and paid the rent and continued to hold classes. I did nude life drawings and still lifes; we'd paint outdoors. It was all totally different that the way I work now, but it taught me a lot about brush technique and perspective and helped me to develop my own style."
Through his teens, he continued drawing and painting, however he began to slack off due to his discovery of girls and baseball. In school he set several high school records, and eventually caught the attention of a scout for the New York Giants professional baseball team. Frank was offered a position on their farm squad with a good prospect of moving up to the major league within a season, but he turned them down. " I was involved with a girl at the time," Frazetta says a little sorrowfully. "And going down to Texas and sweating it out in the minors for a year didn't seem very appealing. You have to remember that at that time athletes weren't making the money they do today. They bussed you back and forth and it was just a big disgusting hassle. I remember that traveling to another state seemed like going to the end of the world, so I told them, maybe next year. Time went by and before I knew it I was too old. It was just my way of letting time make the decision for me.
If I have any regrets it's that I didn't turn pro. If I was in my twenties and had it to do over - today, at today's salaries - you better bet I'd do it. "He loved comic strips by Hal Foster, E.C. Segar, and Milton Caniff but was exposed to and appreciative of opera and the fine arts. Frazetta's childhood years were an odd mixture of influences. Much of Frank's early work is signed "Fritz" and anyone who tried to collect the works of Frank Frazetta might have passed them over. Frank used this pen name because it was the nickname he went by where he grew up, and most of his friends knew him only as "Fritz." The neighborhood where he lived grew progressively worse. The Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn was not the place to admit you were and artist. Gang wars and violence were common everyday occurrences and Frank found himself an active participant but never a member of any gang. Fights were an everyday occurrence. Frank more then held his own against any and all challengers. He soon gained a reputation of one to be reckoned with. Perhaps this is where he learned to express the feeling of power and violence found in a lot of his paintings.He was athletic almost to an extreme yet pursued a career that nurtured his sensitivity.
"When I was about 15," Frank recalls, "someone in my family introduced me to John Giunta. "He was a professional artist who was working for Bernard Bailey's comics publishing company and he really wasn't a very personable guy. He was very aloof and self- conscious and hard for me to talk to, but he was really very talented. He had an exceptional ability, but it was coupled with a total lack of self-confidence and an inability to communicate with people. Being around him really opened up my eyes, though, because he was really that good. He had an interesting style, a good sense of spotting and his blacks worked well. You can see a lot of his influence even today in some of my ink work."
Giunta liked Frazetta's home-made "Snowman" comic and persuaded Bailey to publish a revised version in Tally Ho #1 in 1944. "I did the drawing and Giunta inked it, slicking it up to look like their other comics, " Frank says. He next worked briefly for Fiction House Comics, cleaning up panels and erasing underlying pencil art for Graham Ingels, Bob Lubbers, and George Evans. " They canned me after six months," Frazetta says. " They told me I had potential, but there wasn't a lot for me to do. So I went over to Standard and, lo and behold, there was Graham Ingels, who had just quit Fiction House and was working as their new art director. He had always encouraged me so he went out on a limb and gave me a feature, 'Judy of the Jungle.' I did a terrible job. Graham felt that it would be a great shot in the arm and really get my career going, but the owners said, 'The kid's not ready.' Which was probably true."
Frank was a quick study with an obvious, if unrefined, talent and Standard employed him as an apprentice. He drew backgrounds, ruled borders, and cleaned up other artists' pencils. Graham Ingels would become famous several years later for the horror strips he signed "Ghastly" for EC Comics, but chronic alcoholism cost him his art director position with Standard. He was replaced by Ralph Mayo. "When Ralph took over he pulled me aside and said, "Frank, you stuff is great, but you need to learn some anatomy." When I was in school with Falanga the emphasis was on feeling, not on the nuts and bolts, so I really didn't understand what he meant by 'anatomy.' So Ralph handed me an anatomy book and when I went home that night I had decided to learn anatomy.
I started with page one and copied the entire book–everything, in one night, from the skeleton up. I came back the next day like a dumb kid and said, "Thank you very much, I just learned my anatomy." Of course Ralph fell over and roared with laughter. "Frankie, you silly bastard! I've been studying for ten years and I still don't know anatomy, and you went home and learned it last night?!" But the thing was I had learned an awful lot. I had the ability to absorb things and he saw an improvement in my work right away. It amazed him and that meant a lot to me. From that point on I developed pretty rapidly: I started to do things with figures that made sense. I worked for Mayo and Standard for a few years, doing things like "Looie Laziebones" and all the funny animal stuff. "Looie Lazybones" was featured within the pages of THRILLING COMICS latched on to the Li 'l Abner popularity and lasted eight issues. This feature caught the attention of Al Capp enough to contact Frazetta and eventually offer him a job ghosting the Li 'l Abner Strip.
The majority of Frazetta's comic work at this time, signed with his nickname, "Fritz," were humorous stories or spot illustrations for short text pieces. These charming and whimsical drawings exhibited a great deal of animation and caught the attention of the Disney Studio. " I still have the letter," Frank says. "They wanted me to come out to California. I was excited and flattered but I was just a kid. There was no way I could have left Brooklyn."
Frank Frazetta was finally able to stretch his creative legs in 1946 when Prize Publications gave him a chance to solo in Treasure Comics. This was definitely a far cry from Tally Ho and he felt the pressure to draw a story that might earn him some well deserved merit. Standard Publications were also looking for someone to help draw their funny animal books. In consideration of his work for Prize they hired him to do text illustrations for Goofy Comics.
Between the years 1946 and 1950 he worked diligently with Standard on 15 different titles; most of which were their humor books such as Barnyard, Coo Coo, Happy and Supermouse. But once Standard realized Frank's potential he was offered a nine page story for one of their action/adventure titles; Exciting Comics # 59. They also handed him the first of the "Looie Lazybones" features in Thrilling Comics.
These stories were credited as the ones that caught Al Capp's attention and eventually resulted in Frazetta ghosting the Li'l Abner newspaper strip.
The period of 1948 through 1951 was undoubtedly the most productive in the young artist's comic career as other companies were introduced to his work. Not only did he continue working for Standard's humor and adventure titles, D.S. Publishing offered him a seven page story in Outlaws #9. This was the first of many western stories on which he would contribute. The publishing company Magazine Entertainment contacted Frank to help on their "A-1" line of books. The popularity of Trail Colt quickly led to the production of another western title The Durango kid. This book introduced Dan Brand the "White Indian" and Tipi his indian sidekick. It continued well into 1952 with sixteen issues. This particular run of stories best illustrates the growing development of Frazetta's early drawing style.
When Frank left Al Capp's studio in early 1961 he thought it would be no problem to land another steady job. And so, with portfolio in hand, he went searching. But it seemed his work had become poison to any publisher he showed it to. His best stuff was rejected as being too "old style". He honestly believed he'd been blacklisted by Capp because of his leaving the studio on such a down note. This "down time" in Frazetta's career is best shown in the brushstrokes of his "Self Portrait" (1962).
It captures well the look of the troubled artist at the time. The story goes that he painted it after another exhaustive day of trying to find work. He wasn't completely out of work though. There were companies that found his talent quite useful. For instance one of those companies; Midwood hired Frazetta to illustrate a few of their spicy novels.
Finally, the slow trend ended in 1963 when Frank's best friend Roy Krekel introduced him to paperback covers (for which many of us are familiar ). He started with Ace Paperbacks doing a series for Edgar Rice Burrough's Novels. This was the fit published appearance of his painted work.
It was also his first official work on one of his favorite characters "Tarzan of the Apes" a dream of Frazetta's since childhood. The public response was overwhelming.Other paperback firms started noticing. A back cover for Mad Magazine, a caricature of Ringo Starr was noticed by United Artists Film Studios who had Frazetta do the poster for What's New Pussycat? For it, Frank received $4,000.00, a whole year's pay earned in one afternoon! It finally started to pay off.
An interesting story lays behind his cover for " The Mad King". He so enjoyed his work for the 1964 edition, when it came time to hand over the art for a reprinted 1970 edition he reproduced the entire painting and handed that over instead. Even though the copy was of lesser quality it was readily accepted simply because of Frazetta's popularity. Between 1963 - 1965 Frazetta produced twenty-five covers and twenty-two interior illustrations for Ace.
Then Frank began an inspired series of paintings for Jim Warren's Publishing Company, which provided total freedom for Frank the artist to utilize his talents to the fullest. Just about that same time, Lancer Paperbacks were picking up on Robert E. Howard's Conan series. They engaged Frank to do the covers. When they hit the book stands, they became one of the greatest selling series in history, upwards of 10 million copies. Many people bought the books just for the cover art. and couldn't care less for their contents.
Because Frazetta's covers did sell books, he became more selective about the material offered to him. He retained ownership of all original art and permitted only first printing rights. This in itself started a whole new trend in the paperback industry. To this day Frazetta's work is considered fine art. Fine Art is something that is total, "It has a beginning, a middle, and an end." To prove his point, Frank will talk about design while pulling pictures from the wall and turning them upside-down, drawing the eye toward the center of interest, being pleased that it words from any angle.
The brush and ink technique he used in the pages of Creepy caught the attention of Canaveral Press. The goal of the publisher was to produce a series of Burroughs reprints in a high quality format. And the perfect artist for the job was Frank Frazetta. He was fresh from Ace still hungry for Tarzan and a ton of experience now under his belt. His illustrative style best reflected back to the original hardcover editions illustrated by J. Allen St. John (an icon of Frazetta's). What Frazetta created for those four books (one of which was never published was a series of brush and ink drawings that, to this day, challenges anyone to outdo. Frank's illustrations for Canaveral Press are considered by many to be among his finest works, fully matching the vitality of his oil paintings. Dr. David Winiewicz, a long-time Frazetta friend and owner of the original to "Lord of the Jungle," is especially enthusiastic about the artist's black and white Burroughs art from this period and has been able to obtain quite a few for his private collection. This particular drawing struck a chord with a number of ERB readers and Frazetta himself was so taken with the strong central composition that he would use it as the basis of his original cover for Conan the Buccaneer seven years later.
While the perspective of his covers for Warren remained fairly uniform, Frazetta was able to experiment with content and color: his painting for Creep #15 is a prime example of how he was able to convey a sense of horror with a limited, non-traditional palette and an unusual subject matter.
The run-away success of Creepy perhaps made a companion magazine inevitable. In order to protect the title of Eerie from his competitors, Warren cobbled together a first issue – comic book-sized with a black and white cover– and rushed it into limited circulation. With the title identity secured, a full-sized second issue of Eerie was released to the mass-market in 1965. As with Creepy, Frazetta could paint whatever he pleased without the intrusion of an editor or art director. Always interested in dinosaurs, he took advantage of the freedom Warren afforded him to create this misty encounter with a T-Rex. Many times editor Archie Goodwin would write a story based on the magazine's cover, and this painting for Eerie #5 was no exception: "The Swamp God" was illustrated by one of Frazetta's long-time friends, Angelo Torres.
"I liked Warren," Frazetta remembers. "He was very amiable, a lot of fun. He was a cocky little guy and he'd bullshit you a lot, but if you knew that about him you could handle him. He was funny. He had this routine, ' We're a team, Frank, blah blah blah,' That might have worked for other artists - it didn't work for me. I painted for him because I loved working for a larger format - and he stayed off my back. I guess I always had a pretty good time and I think it shows in the art."
"I told Jim Warren, 'Look, be prepared, because I'm going to shock you from time to time'–and I did," Frazetta remembers. " But he didn't care what I did–'Just do it, just bring it in!' But then I did that horizontal painting, 'Sea Witch,' and Jim almost died: 'Frank! What did you do?! How are we going to print this? We'll have to crop it and go close in on it.' I said, 'Don't you touch it.' He printed it horizontal, all on the cover, and the response was enormous, in spite of the fact she was very tiny." The "Sea Witch" is considered by many to be one of the truly classic paintings of contemporary fantastic art, a benchmark against which others are judged. The version printed on the cover of Eerie (and as a poster from Frazetta Prints) is the one most people are familiar with, however it no longer exists in that form. Frank extensively revised the figure, essentially creating a new painting that matches the allure of his earlier seminal work.
Although an illustration might have been mulled over for several weeks and been the subject of stacks of doodles and thumbnail roughs, once Frazetta started painting he worked with an obsessive intensity and rarely spent more than a day on any of his best known works. His speed was legendary - he once completed three covers for Ace's first Burroughs series in two days. Frazetta's son Frank remembers saying to his dad, at the age of 9, just before he went off to bed. " Hey Dad, when are you going to start your next painting?" He replied "Tonight." When Frank Jr. woke up the next morning the "Neanderthal" painting was finished. In a mere 6 hours!
I'll never forget working on the '"Egyptian Queen.'" I got that whole thing done in about a day and a half, and I looked at it. It was done as far as I was concerned. Then I looked at her face and I didn't like it. So I started to repaint the face, and I painted the face, and I painted it again, and I painted it again. Well, I was like three days trying to get the right face. And I suddenly got sort of blinded to it. I just looked at it and didn't know where I was anymore. It was weird. Finally I just settled for any face and took it to Warren and they printed it that way and then I forgot about it. So a couple of months later I got it back - I was fresh again. And I just looked at it and Pow! I whacked in that face everybody is familiar with. When I got back, looked at it fresh, her face was painted in five minutes."
His paper back work continued sporadically through 1966 with just a handful of contributions. This is attributed to his output of movie poster work for that year. However, 1967 showed Frazetta back in the swing of paperback covers when he was commissioned by Lancer to paint covers for their series of Conan books. The work he did for Lancer was of far greater quality then the work provided for Ace. Suddenly he was being offered more money per cover and he was allowed to keep the originals. Ace, on the other hand, would keep Frazetta's originals and sell them for multiples of what they paid for them. The Lancer covers are known to be the ones that made Conan a household name.
Frazetta obviously took a tremendous amount of pride in his paintings for the Conan books and the appreciation he received from Lancer spurred him to new levels of excellence. "Although I have enjoyed illustrating the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I find them a bit slow and Victorian and the fans are too prone to condemn the artist if he hasn't been faithful to the text. I much prefer illustrating the tales of Robert E. Howard. They are much stronger in mood and narration than those of Burroughs and allow a wider range of illustrative interpretations. As St. John is remembered for ERB and Tarzan, I would like to be remembered for REH and Conan. I feel a certain sense of loss that Howard isn't alive to appreciate what I've done with Conan." Unwarranted sniping from jealous editors would eventually sour Frank's feelings about Howard's work, but there's little doubt of the enormous impact these images had on the readers, the publishers, and the artistic community alike.
Frazetta painted another masterful cover. Realizing that he had very little illustratable material to work with, Frank ignored the novel entirely and created a scene of carnage which summed up his feelings for the character. Dissatisfied with Conan's face and helmet in the version published on the paperback cover, he subsequently tinkered with the painting in his spare time over several months, polishing and improving it. Still sensing that something wasn't quite right, he decided to repaint the entire figure. Despite the dominant, dramatic pose, Frazetta felt that Conan was somehow separated from the surrounding action. His reworked version is more intimate and more personal, a much more deadly depiction of combat. Horrifying in its viciousness yet fascinating in its intensity, this work clearly transcended its subject matter.
Frank recalls, "I remember fans would approach me at conventions and say" ' what a fabulous cover. I read the entire book awaiting to read about the scene on the cover and never found it. So I read it again thinking I missed it, but no luck." With a smile, Frank states "Never judge a book by its cover."
Conan the Adventurer was the first book published in the series in 1966 (although based on the "history" established by the editors it was chronologically out of sequence) and it was an immediate success.
His cover work continued well into the seventies when Ace decided to re-enlist Frank to provide covers and frontispiece illustrations for yet another reissue series of Burroughs novels. This time though Frank kept the originals. Dell Books hired him as well. It was for Dell that he painted two of his most famous pieces; Death Dealer (for Flashing Swords #2) and Silver Warrior (for Silver Warriors). He then moved on to Warner Books to provide seven covers for their company one of which was later turned into an album cover for Molly Hatchet. By the late seventies Frazetta was only doing about four covers a year. This wasn't due to lack of popularity. On the contrary, he couldn't have been more popular at the time. It was around 1975 when he started slowing his output. About the same time his first art book came out (Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta) and he realized a new market; merchandising.Frazetta's portrait of Howard's character was menacingly unique, a composition that snarled its animal magnetism and an audience accustomed to sterile Steve Reeves-flavored interpretations of sword and sorcery characters. With a single painting Frazetta defined the look for an entire genre. Lancer's future, for awhile at least, was assured by the bestseller-status achieved by the Conan books. And while the series' editors (de Camp and Lin Carter) were dismissive when discussing the correlation between the covers and the revived popularity of Howard's work–complaining that Conan needed a haircut or that he wasn't very handsome.
He quit working for M.E. after they sold the rights to the character to Columbia Pictures for a serial starring Buster Crabbe. Since he had created Thun'da under the comic industry's standard work-for-hire agreement, Frank never received additional payment for the characters and art he had created. Bob Powell took over as artist on the comic with the second issue and stayed with it until the title was canceled with #6. The first issue has become a classic. The first was considered by many to have been the best year for Frank as far as comic work was concerned.
Frazetta ghosted a few weeks of Flash Gordon for Dan Barry and tried unsuccessfully to sell the syndicates several other ideas for newspaper strips: Ambi Dexter featured a baseball pitcher adept with either his right or left hand, Sweet Adeline was the humorous story of a young working woman, Nina was a female version of Thun'da and Tiga (originally conceived in 1950 with a script by Joe Greene) was a post-apocalyptic adventure tale.
War was raging in Korea and the prospect of being drafted was a daily worry, yet the early 1950's were an invigorating, fun-filled period in Frazetta's life. He worked as much or as little as he pleased, producing a memorable stack of art for E.C. (publishers of world-class scary and violent comics), Toby Press, and Prize Publications. His Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies are considered some of the finest comics work ever published and many prominent filmmakers have cited them as a visual influence on their movies. These covers overwhelmed George Lucas, who has claimed they were the inspiration for the Star Wars Saga.
At the same time, Frank was far from a workaholic. He enjoyed life too much to be chained to a drawing board and he made a point of playing baseball everyday. He enjoyed hanging out with friends like Nick Meglin, Angelo Torres, and Roy Krenkel, posing for reference photos, and going to the movies. Handsome, muscular, and charismatic, Frazetta was popular with women and he had a string of intense romances. In 1952 petite seventeen-year-old Eleanor Kelly caught his eye and his days of jumping from one relationship to the next came to an end. "I sensed that she would be forever loyal and I never ever had that feeling about any other girl. I'd been involved with, " Frazetta reveals. "Sure, she had most of the physical attributes I looked for in a women, she was beautiful and athletic. But beyond that she was very sharp and alert and pert and she knew a lot of things I didn't know."
Ellie was the perfect foil for Frank, matching his powerful personality with one that was quietly tenacious. "I'd sit for hours watching him play ball," she remembers, "because we couldn't go out until his games were over. I didn't mind. I talked him into buying a motorcycle because my old boyfriend had had one, and Frank and I would go riding when he was finished." After four years of dating they were married on November 17, 1956.
1952 was a pivotal year for Frazetta: Thun'da was published, he met his future wife, and he began drawing his own newspaper comic strip, Johnny Comet. "McNaught Syndicate had seen advance pages from Thun'da ," Frank explains, " and they offered me a strip. I was excited, even though I wasn't thrilled with the subject matter, automobile racing. But it was my own comic strip and I remember thinking, "Jeez, I'll have a steady job. I'll make a lot of money." During the late '40's and early '50's car racing had become a popular pastime and Johnny Comet was created to appeal to the sport's growing number of fans. Peter DePaolo, winner of the 1925 Indianapolis 500, was credited as the strip's writer, but his name had only been licensed to add credibility to the racing storyline: Earl Baldwin was the actual scripter. Johnny Comet (which changed its name to Ace McCoy in the middle of its run) never really found an audience and was canceled after a little over a year.
In 1953 Al Capp hired Frazetta as one of the uncredited ghost artists for the popular Li 'l Abner. " I shouldn't have done it, " Frank confesses, "but I was lazy. All I could think of was that I loved to tell stories and do comics and Al Capp came along and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. The pay was wonderful and it took me only a day to pencil his Sunday page and I had the rest of the week off! What more could I ask for? On a couple of occasions I went up to his Boston studio and he paid me $100 a day, which was really big money back then." Frazetta worked for Capp for the better part of eight years, burying his own style under that of his employer. Although he did freelance assignments for several comics publishers in the mid-1950's, after the depression in the comic book industry following the notorious senate investigation into juvenile delinquency Frank devoted his full attention to Li 'l Abner.
When Capp attempted to cut Frazetta's salary in half in 1961, Frank angrily quit, believing that he could take up his comic book career where he had left off. Because of Capp's strong style of drawing, I had all but lost all the things I had learned and developed on my own. " states Frank. " I had to get away. " ( Even after a year away from Capp, his own work looked awkward). He then went on to work on a series for Playboy Magazine titled "Lil Annie Fannie." Frank Frazetta: Family Man
In 1970 Doubleday's Science Fiction Book Club embarked on an aggressive program of reprinting Edgar Rice Burroughs' interplanetary adventures. Naturally, Frazetta's phenomenally popular covers for Ace and Lancer made him the only logical choice to illustrate the series. His paintings for A Princess of Mars, the first in the series, was so perfectly "Frazetta".
Although Frank and Ellie were quite comfortable in their long Island home and were keeping busy raising their four children, they moved back to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to be closer to family. While there, Ellie had saved some money and taken a gamble by starting a small business called Frazetta Prints. It consisted of just 5 posters of some of Franks early work. She worked diligently with a few distributors to get Franks artwork into the public eye. Now some 28 years later it has blossomed into an empire of over 150 different prints, books, lithographs and literally anything that pertains to Frank's art.
While living in Sheepshead Bay for only 1 1/2 years, Frank stilled longed for open space and privacy. With his son starting high school and the school violence getting out of control, Frank decided to set out and fulfill his longtime dream. They started out in search for that old farm house and lots of land. I recall driving with my Dad for days in western NJ and PA for his dream place - to no avail. The prices had sky rocketed in the past 10 years and anything my Dad liked was already well out of his price range. All the quaint old farms and parcels of land had been bought up and developed upon. Dad turned to me and said, " I can't believe I waited to long, there is nothing left. We drove hundreds of miles with not even one prospect.
Then, low and behold a Realtor in Stroudsburg, PA said. You know, there is this old place just out of town that has 67 acres and a pond. But the house is extremely run down and practically worthless. My Dad said lets take a look. My Father always told me, you can always fix or replace a home, but there is no substitution for land and privacy.
Dad always had great foresight, especially when he first laid his eyes on the house. He imediately fell in love with it. Sure, the house was run down, the rolling fields were over grown with brush and trees, the entire place was seemingly never maintained. Maybe even since the turn of the century! The asking price was one which Dad could afford, the only thing holding my Father back from closing was that someone had already put in a bid! Just $500 less than the asking price. The offer was refused and to my Dad's disbelief the potential buyer had walked away from the deal! Before you could put a period on the end of the previous sentence, my Father said "I'll take it."
Oh Boy! All I could think of was how much my Mom loved my Dad, to move into this place. There was a lot of work to be done in order to turn this run down house into a home. Mom and Dad were determined to make this place home for their 4 children, and with the aid of a mop, Kubota tractor and lots of hard work this old house had transformed into the now beautiful estate where 3 of the 4 children, and 9 grandchildren reside. In just 6 months the place was beautiful, the fields were cut, the house was painted, the children were hitting golf balls, fishing and playing hide & seek on the property.
That very same year a developer had offered my Dad 4 times more then the purchased price. With no disrespect to the gentleman my Father said polietely, " no thank you, this is our home now. " Some 29 years later the now beautiful estate will welcome the addition of the new Frazetta Art Museum.
"When I painted "Death Dealer" and " Silver Warrior" back to back, I had been sitting on my laurels, just going through the motions. I could turn in a half-finished painting to an art director and they'd sing my praises; I didn't feel challenged. Then I became aware of a rumor going around that disturbed me – that I was washed up, that I hadn't done anything in years. My success was a fluke, just a matter of timing. These people who had been fawning all over me were suddenly chopping me up for dinner! In print! And I wanted to show them they didn't know anything, to let them see the old spirit. I think I needed that shot in the arm. I sat down and painted "Death Dealer,'" then "Silver Warrior" – bang! As good or better than anything I'd ever done. All of a sudden my critics got pretty quite.
How Atlantis was almost lost: A memoir told by Frank Frazetta Jr.Frank Frazetta Jr. was about 15 years old at the time. "I remember walking in to Dad's studio and was thrown in to disbelief. " There was this Atlantis painting being painted over with white Jesso! "Pop, what are you doing!" Frank Jr. gasped. " I didn't leave enough room for the reflection on the water." Frank replied.
He didn't have any more canvas to paint on so I insisted I would run to the store and purchase him a half dozen sheets. "Dad, just start taking the wet white paint off and I'll be right back. I returned an hour later with his new canvas and proudly walked away with, as of today, my most cherished and sentimental item in my personal collection - the original Atlantis painting. As time went on I had taken the painting to a New York City comic convention. We had a small table with some posters and Pen & Inks for sale. I was asking $3,500 for the Atlantis piece but had no one interested in it. The following year I had taken it back and increased the price to $7,500 because I had become attached to it. I had a gentleman who was interested in purchasing it, but his wife abruptly put and end to that. Over the course of the next few years I grew more attached to the piece. One day, I walked into Dad's studio with my prized possession and made an offer he couldn't refuse. I bought him a nice 35mm camera for no apparent reason. But there was a motive. Cameras had a way to my father's heart. I remember saying "Hey Pop", as I placed the Atlantis painting on his easel, " could you put an hour or so of your time into this to refine a couple of areas that aren't quite finished, and maybe put a little more detail into the warrior." He looked back at me and said, "what are you a wise guy?" "Common Pop", I pleaded, " look at this camera - I worked three weeks to buy for you." He agreed. In 1984 I was offered $75,000 for the original and refused the offer. It now hangs proudly on my living room wall.
Certainly one of the most popular of Frank's paintings, "Cat Girl" was extensively revised from its initial incarnation. " I thought it had potential, but it was originally done for Warren and I had to be concerned with what they could show on the newsstand. She was blonde and was wearing a leopard skin; you know the typical comic book jungle goddess. But it was an interesting composition and I thought, "Hey, I bet I could turn this into something really special!" This version has really become a lot of people's favorite of all the work I've done. I think it really represents something of my inner being"'
The grim visage of the medieval headsman was the last painting Frank would do for Warren for several years. A flourishing career in the book and advertising industries kept Frazetta's schedule full at the same time that economic difficulties forced Warren to lower his standards and rely on reprint comics. Frank's occasional return to the magazines' covers eventually helped the publisher to return to profitability. Over the course of their twelve year relationship he produced some of his most exciting work and influenced several generations of young talent. At the same time, James Warren's comics achieved their highest sales when they featured Frazetta covers and he unhesitatingly reprinted many of them on new issues ( without additional compensation to the artist) whenever he needed to reverse dipping circulations. "I don't actually remember why I stopped doing paintings for him, " Frank admits. "I didn't have a falling out with the guy or anything. I guess it was partly due to the fact we were moving to Pennsylvania and I wouldn't be able to get into the city anymore. Also, by that point I was doing movie posters and getting paid pretty big money. Even though I enjoyed doing that material, meaning anything I wanted to, he was only paying about $250. I was having fun and producing some nice paintings, but the others were paying me anywhere from $1000 to over $10,000 for commissioned work.
I had a family to support and bills to pay so I guess I couldn't justify continuing to work for Warren." This painting was never returned to Frazetta and its true ownership became a source of controversy and acrimony when Jim Warren sold it at an auction in the early 1990's.
It was in 1974 that Ian Ballantine approached Frank about producing a book on Frank's art. The book was a blockbuster and went into six printings. There were four volumes available, with over a total of a million copies sold.
Also, three calendars were produced and the Poster Business has grown in number to over 100 illustrations.
Hollywood celebrities are not strangers to the "Frazetta Magic." Clint East wood (who, by the way, some people say resembles Frank), visited Frank and commissioned him to do the poster art for his movie, "The Gauntlet "
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), comes to spend the day as well as George Lucas (Star Wars).
Lucas is a big Frazetta fan and collector, owning two Frazetta originals in his collection. John and Bo Derek commissioned Frank to do their corporate logo, "Svengali."
Among the Hollywood names that have visited or contacted Frank are the likes of Francis Ford Copolla, Marlon Brando, Sandra Loche, Dino De Laurentiis, Tom Laughlin, Patrick Duffy, Charleton Heston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Orson Welles, Cher, Dick Clark, to name a few. In lieu of the many offers from Hollywood producers to become involved in film making, Frank has finally consented to make the big move.
Frank Frazetta: The Early Years
Frank Frazetta, born on the 9th day of February, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, discovered the wonders of drawing before he was three, when he sold his first crayon drawing to Grandma - for the tidy sum of one penny. It was through her interest and encouragement, that he continued his drawings through those early years. When he hit kindergarten, his teachers were astounded that there was a child only 5 1/2 drawing better then ten-year-olds. Throughout Elementary School, Frazetta created comic books with the main character a snowman and an array of assorted characters.
By the time he was eight, one of his teachers, who was fascinated by his talent, approached Frank's parents and persuaded them to enroll him in Art School - The Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts.
The Academy was little more that a one-floor, three-room affair with a total of thirty students, all adults. It was manned by a single teacher, Classical Italian Artist - Michael Falanga. To this day, Frank can remember the look of scepticism as he was signed in. You could easily imagine the Professor thinking "Oh no! Not another child prodigy!" Nevertheless, he sat him down with pencil and paper and asked him to copy a picture of a group of ducks.About 30 minutes later, he returned to check on his progress, took one look at the drawing, grabbed it and leaped into the air shouting, "Mama Mia, Mama Mia! We have a genius here!"
As time passed, the Professor became so impressed with Frank's ability that he vowed to send him to a famous Art School in Italy. Unfortunately, Michael Falanga died and the dream of Frank attending Art School died with him. Mr. Falanga's school disbanded shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, in Elementary School, he was awarded the Art Medal and on Graduation Day the Principal gave such a flattering speech that it made Frank's parents beam with pride.
The decade of the 80's began auspiciously with an invitation by Ralph Bakshi to come to Hollywood and co-produce a new animated film based on Frazetta concepts. Bakshi was a longtime fan and admirer of Frank and always thought his art should be seen on the big screen. Frazetta accepted Bakshi's offer and moved to Hollywood. They hired a team of animators to draw and paint; with live performers so that select scenes could be rotoscoped. Frazetta wanted the film to feature realistic and believable action. Many action scenes were Frank himself doing the falling, kicking and rolling over because some of the stunt men said it couldn't be done. Well, Frank proved some of Hollywood's top stuntmen wrong.
Frank sculpted several clay models of the key characters for use by the staff. Frazetta also painted a large oil for the movie poster and a number of stunning pencil illustrations that were used in the opening sequence of the film. [ Buy the Fire & Ice movie poster ] Frazetta worked furiously on this project night and day. Alas, because of poor marketing and distribution irregularities, it was not the success he had hoped for. Too many cooks had spoiled the broth.
Undaunted by this disappointment Frazetta returned to his estate in Pennsylvania and purchased a 10,000 sq. ft. building in downtown East Stroudsburg. Initially Frank's two sons started there own business at this location with Ellie devoting herself to open the new Frazetta Art Museum. This was a longtime dream of his wife, Ellie, and she threw herself into the project until it was completed. The museum tastefully displayed his most famous works. Accented with African art and wildlife bronzes, it was an unprecedented showcase for any living artist, much less for one categorized merely as an "illustrator". In April of 1985 the new museum opened with much fanfare. A lavish opening day party was thrown and it was attended by many local politicians, Ian and Betty Ballantine, Frank's longtime friends, Dave Winiewicz, and Nick Meglin, Frank's mother, father, aunt, uncle, and scores of fans.
Frank repainted a new version of the standing "Masai Warrior " oil for the museum. It dominated one wall. The museum became a kind of mecca for the many fans who would travel long distances to see the many marvelous masterpieces on display.
"It was all Ellie's Idea," Frank explains. "We were always getting calls from the fans asking if they could come see the originals. The best we had done through the years was to have some exhibits at various conventions, but that got to be a risky hassle. We did the museum for all the people who have had fun with my art over the years. It wasn't for profit --- if I wanted to make money I would've sold the originals. My joy is in showing the work."
A fire on the lower floors of the building in 1995 closed the museum; fortunately none of the artwork was damaged. Announced plans to relocate the gallery to Boca Grande, Florida were changed at the last moment and Ellie plans, at this writing, to reopen the museum in East Stroudsburg in 1999.
But along with financial comfort and critical acclaim, the 1980's also brought health problems to the vigorous artist. "The first symptoms appeared about 1986 ," Frank relates. " I had three jobs going on at the same time and I was burning the midnight oil. Coincidentally I had bought some really inexpensive turpentine, real junk. The fumes were so terrible that it probably screwed my thyroid up. Nobody's quite sure what makes a thyroid malfunction or quit or go hyperactive, but they certainly know it can be affected by chemicals. I was working for about two weeks with this turpentine that just permeated my studio: my wife and kids wouldn't even come into the room it was so bad. But good ol' Frank just kept plugging away. "I'm tough, this won't affect me. " Around the time I was finishing the jobs I suddenly got this eerie, insidious taste in my mouth. It was almost as if Death had entered."
Painting became more difficult and he began to experience dizziness and debilitating pain. For the next eight years Frazetta saw dozens of doctors and was subjected to every imaginable test, always with inconclusive results. His weight plummeted from 180 to 128 pounds and his anxiety increased. A visit to the Mayo clinic proved to be a disaster. They thought his problems were mental; they could discover no biological basis for the symptoms. Frank returned home to Pennsylvania and thought he would soon die. Luckily, a local doctor ran a standard thyroid test and found the problem - a malfunctioning thyroid that was causing an extreme hormonal disfunction. Once the proper medication was determined Frazetta began a return to normal state.
Few people realized that Franks's "come back" was more of a display of personal triumph that it was an indication of a desire to return to his comic roots. An undiagnosed thyroid condition had played havoc with both his professional and personal life. " I suddenly had no more of those wonderful images running through my head. And even though I could sit there and sort of work out a composition and a design, the actual application was gone. I noticed when I used the brush, nothing happened. Everything was flat. There was none of that spontaneity, none of that courage to site there and ride it out and let things happen. "What have I lost?" I thought it was because I was getting older and I knew that I'd lose some of my skills. Eventually. But it happen so suddenly. I tried everything: pen and ink, pencils, painting; the were all awful. I used to look at my old work and ask myself, "How did I do that? I guess that's just what happens when you get old." Obviously I realized that it was something in my brain that wasn't functioning right, it's just that neither the doctors or I attributed it to the thyroid."
Once they corrected his hormonal imbalance, things immediately turned around . "The most wonderful and incredible thing is, the minute they got this thing adjusted, bang! It all came back in an instant. I never imagined that my skill would come back just as good as ever. That's crazy, but it shows that the brain is like a delicate computer and sometimes the circuits need a little soldering."
Frazetta was offered the job of painting the cover to Battlefield Earth, written by L. Ron Hubbard. Strangely, the cover was rejected and another artist was used. Shortly thereafter, Author Services (the literary wing of the L. Ron Hubbard empire) commissioned Frazetta to do a large series of covers for many of Hubbard's novels. In addition, a series of lavishly produced lithographs were done to accompany the publishing of the books. This was a lucrative assignment and it helped to get Frazetta back into the world of creative art. A new generation was now being exposed to the greatness of Frazetta.
His recovery sparked a creative renewal and in the early 1990's Frank reemerged in to the market. He allowed a few of his originals to be sold at auction at Sotheby's and Christie's, where they went for high five-figure sums.
Frazetta finished a lovely oil entitled "The Princess and the Panther" and it was used on the cover of Heavy Metal magazine. This was followed by the publication of Small Wonders in 1991, a book by Kitchen Sink Press devoted to reprinting many of Frazetta's funny-animal drawings from the 1940's. This was closely followed by the publication of Kitchen Sink's Pillow Book, a collection of Frazetta's watercolors from many stages of his career. Most of these watercolors were personal productions designed to be given as presents on certain holidays (Ellie would often encourage Frank to paint her a watercolor for Christmas, Mother's Day, etc.) or simply done to amuse himself. The book has a small selection. There are another hundred images that have never been seen before.
Renewed interest in the work of Frazetta reached a fever pitch in the middle 90's. A number of people arose with new projects and ideas. Randy Bowen convinced Frank to help him co-create a bronze sculpture of Frazetta's signature oil, The Death Dealer . Glenn Danzig, a longtime Frazetta fan, collector, and emerging rock star, decided to begin his own publishing company, Verotik. He commissioned Frank to produce a book of pencil drawings based on monsters and demons. This extraordinary volume was entitled, Illustrations Arcanum, and it immediately became a wild hit. The quality of the art and the beautiful production values blended to energize Frazetta's name in the art world. Danzig followed this success with a series of Death Dealer comics, other assorted fantasy-supernatural theme productions, a series of sculptures based on Frank's Fire and Ice models, and a new character entitled, Jaguar God, for which Frazetta painted several amazing oils. Danzig's company presented the Frazetta name to the newest generation and they responded.Frazetta's Egyptian Queen
Completed in 1969, Frazetta's Egyptian Queen is arguably one of history's most sensual and enigmatic works with the female form as focal point. The curvaceous young queen is put on display as it were and we are voyeurs and silent judges. There is extreme intimacy in this. The queen possesses that most rare quality of having the body of a goddess, a vibrant, unashamed sexuality, yet at the same time a vulnerability and a childlike innocence, very much as was the case with Marilyn Monroe, an evolutionary Ace, for it wreaks havoc with the two strongest male urges: to procreate and to protect.
There she is, on display on a dais, dazed and exposed, her feminine charm and curves astounding and there for the taking, like a low-hanging fruit. Her soft, ivory white skin is contrasted with a stygian gloom, a malevolent darkness looking to snuff her out, as though a flickering candle flame. The inclusion of the leopard and its feline grace only adds to the allure of overflowing female sexuality. As contrast, but only serving to highlight the queen even more, is the Nubian warrior emerging from the shadows.Frazetta's Silver Warrior
An all time favorite amongst fans, this world renowned painting is a master-class in the use of composition. The most discerning will be initially drawn to the sun-flare on the sword, and then the curious eye will drift lower to the warrior himself. His intricate armor, custom designed down to the embellishments and relief on the sled and then again, on the four ferocious polar bears, each with its own unique character. When one has fully absorbed the detail and depth of the characters involved, only then does the eye observe the subtle ice caps looming in the midst, and the brilliance of the blue sky with its exquisite cloud formations. The whole scene sits in perfect balance. Frazetta has often used the pyramid formation in his compositions. This adds incredible strength and majesty, yet there still remains a poetic fluidity to the very dramatic scene scene.
What is most apparent is the distinct tone and its use of cold, glacial colors ranging from grey to a vivid volcanic blue that pops off the canvas and then the purest white. These colors endow the painting with a stark and unforgiving beauty, just like the landscape it portrays. The Silver Warrior himself is just as bitterly cold and indomitable as these wastelands. He is faceless, elemental, and every bit as wild and invulnerable as the polar-bears pulling his sled as though these fierce beasts are merely a manifestation of his frozen interior. One of the main reasons for the painting’s lasting popularity, sits upon a more basic, almost childlike level, where we have this juvenile fascination with the concept of having our sled pulled by polar bears and the fantasy of supreme power that picture invokes.The Barbarian
Frazetta's iconic Conan oil painting was completed in 1966 and was first featured as cover-art for a paperback reprinting of 1930’s pulp fiction writer Robert. E. Howard’s Conan the Adventurer story.
This artwork is considered the quintessential illustration of the Sword and Sorcery genre, and certainly the definitive Conan rendition that dramatically changed the way this most notorious barbarian would be depicted henceforth. Frazetta was the first to do justice to the true character and appearance of Conan, managing to combine all the elements required to make the viewer, on a very emotional and visceral level, comprehend what Conan is about in one single image. Simply put, Conan is all business, and he means it. No posing, no bravado, just a confidence and knowing as sure as cold steel. Here is a man who never met his match on the battlefield, hailing from a war-like people where only the fierce make it into adulthood, his muscles of corded iron developed in the hunt, the climbing of indomitable crags and incessant pitch battles to the death. His face is dark and somber, reflecting the grim, windswept wastelands of his homeland. His mouth is set in a thin line, for he is under no illusions: life in the Hyborian world is short and violent and the only true solace a man of Conan’s temperament can know is in the embrace of a yielding woman, the bloodlust of battle and the drunken stupor of bitter wine. This man does not have the cumbersome body of a bodybuilder, but rather the scarred and rock-hard development of the gladiator and the supple, yet explosive power of the panther. He carries swords and daggers of different races and lands which he would pillage one day and the next defend as mercenary for hire.The Frazetta Museum
The Frazetta Art Museum is home to the largest and most comprehensive collection of works and personal artifacts of Frank Frazetta.
Nestled in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, near the vertical center of the border between Pennsylvania & New Jersey, lies the 67 acre estate that served the Frazetta family as home since 1971. Chosen for its beauty and privacy, it afforded the master illustrator-turned ground-breaking fine artist and his family a sanctuary for an increasingly successful and demanding career. The site would become the birthplace of innumerable family memories and more than a few of America's most widely recognized and popular works of art.
Housing hundreds of personal mementos and original works in a myriad of media within its 2,500 square foot gallery, the facility welcomes guests and occasionally plays host to special events on the grounds as part of its seasonal schedule from early spring through mid fall. The museum was the dream of Frank and his wife, Ellie, and is carried forward as a labor of love by his vibrant family to honor their final wishes: "to preserve Frank's art and continue the legacy for fans around the world."
Frazetta Art Museum manages the considerable responsibility of properly displaying and effectively securing the longevity of each piece of art and precious artifact in its charge. From the extensive steps taken in the selection of complementary framing, accurate lighting and narrative positioning, our primary focus is to maximize the viewing experience for each and every visitor. The impact of personally viewing this catalog of classics is made more profound when the viewer considers that many of them were created just steps from where they are lovingly displayed.
While attending to the duties of presentation, the museum is also pledged to diligently monitor and manage the handling, storage, and security of this prominent and personal inventory from authorization of accountable transport, maintenance of exacting environmental controls to adherence of our strict surveillance policies and underwriting it all with expanding financial surety. We embrace these standards knowing the expense of conscientious stewardship today is less than the cost of comprehensive restoration tomorrow.
At the bottom of it all however is the fervent desire to provide the highest quality experience to every individual that visits. To that end, the museum will continue to be enhanced with five total phases of expansions and renovations scheduled through 2018. It seems fitting that such a treasury of monumental masterpieces mirror the accomplishments of its master.
As he inspired, we aspire.The Frazetta Museum: 2014 Re-Opening
The Frazetta Museum re-opened to the public on Saturday, May 17th, 2014, on one of the most beautiful sunny afternoons of the summer.
After nearly 5 years, My wife Lori and I reopened the doors to accommodate the patrons for the first time as sole proprietors. The museum and estate property was previously owned and operated by my parents since 1971. “We had a wonderful time greeting the fans as they entered the Museum for the very first time in many years. It was one of the highlights of my year while moving forward with my father's legacy. Exhibiting my personal collection of my father's art made it all worth the time and effort we both put forth in acquiring the estate property.” With sole ownership, I had my personal concept on how to present my collection of my father's art and memorabilia to the fans.
I focused the new layout on his personal life as well as his career. I tried to give the visitors the ability to see clearly and intuitively into the nature of a complex person for who he was other than just a great fantasy illustrator. Understanding how and where the foundation of his genius began in the 1930’s. Viewing his premature art while getting a better perspective on how he made the transition from comic art to the fabulous oil paintings we all became fans from. His remarkable athleticism gave him numerous opportunities to pursue careers other than art. But luckily for all of his fans, myself included, the salaries were far from the astronomical figures the athletes are paid today.
It would have made his career choice a simple decision knowing you can play professional baseball and get paid a fortune doing so. But the $3,000 contract was far less than he was making doing something else he enjoyed as well. But what could have been far worse was losing the wonderful father and son relationship that I never would have known of with all the traveling involved while playing professional ball. Undoubtedly, It would have been a detriment to me along with my father after the relationship we shared together. In the early part of the 1940’s, he started focusing on his career and knew in his heart, art was where his true love stayed for the rest of his life.
The museum is set up in somewhat chronological order starting with a some personal and never seen family portraits. While just behind stands a partition with a display of his earliest works in oil known to exist. His first crayon drawings accompanied by 2 Indian head pennies dated 1907. Two oil renditions on canvas painted when he was just eight years old; and many other interesting early pen and inks and penciled home made comics. After the fallout will Al Capp, there was a 2 year absence from the art world because the publishers told him his style was out of touch.
His long journey involved making the transition from wonderful funny animal comics, numerous comic book stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. It wasn't until the mid 1960's before he could do whatever he pleased and the publishers would use it regardless the subject matter. He forgot how to draw after working with Al Capp based on copying someone else's style for 9 years. He went to night classes with friend Roy Krinkle doing life studies on live models to get back his form from many years ago. My objective in the museum layout was to give the fans an overall education on the man behind the art, and how it all came to be.
Above is a wall displaying some of his earliest drawings along with a home made mini comic about baseball. It consisted of 8 panels rendered in pencil dating back to the early 1940's. Sadly, he did over 100 mini comic stories with just 5 or 6 known to exist within the family. His sisters swapped most of them for the store bought comics from kids in the neighborhood.
He was not held prisoner to his art, there are many facets to his life and career that few know about, including many close friends and family members. I honestly believe I have more knowledge about his personal life than anyone else alive. We had a wonderful relationship based on our common interests that were identical. We respected each other's opinion regardless if it was conflicting. There was never a grudge or time we parted each others company in disagreement. As my father grew older, our bond became inseparable. I was truly one of the fortunate individuals/sons, that was the poster boy for the perfect father and son relationship everyone wants and wishes they had. This is why I so desperately wanted to acquire the estate property to show my gratitude to my father for all he did for me.
I tried to incorporate as many of his personal elements the floor plan as I could that made you feel as if you knew my father from a young man. You quickly get a insight to his life that few people outside his immediate family had the pleasure of being part of. It is the most informative display of Frank Frazetta's career and personal life that has ever been made available to the general public.
"I wanted to show my gratitude to my father for all he did for me. The museum is the most informative display of my father's career and personal life that has ever been made available."
- Frank Frazetta Jr.The Frazetta Museum: Grand Opening
As the sun rose above the surrounding hills of the Frazetta estate, the tone was set for a beautiful day in the Poconos. With the temperature in the seventies and low humidity the gates opened early for our guests. As they were welcomed at the main entrance by security guards and members of Cinimachine, everyone received a small poster of the upcoming film biography to be released this fall.
Members of the Frazetta family at Gallery greeted friends and fans from all parts of the United States and Europe. Many guests walked about the estate and around the lake as they absorbed the serene setting. Beverage and Hors-d-ourvers were made available for our patrons at the large tent erected for the dining area. Mrs. Frazetta graciously opened the museum prior to the scheduled time for fans to savor the original artwork. Many first time visitors to the Frazetta museum were overwhelmed by the original art. “ I was amazed at the little details in Mr. Frazetta’s originals that is lost in print. In some paintings you an actually see the underlying pencil lines. In other the subtle pinks, greens and hi-lights of the painted skin tones made my mouth drop, literally. The very thin brush strokes in both the oil paintings and in the pen and inks are incredible.” “I was truly blown away by the originals” expressed one of our guests. Another patron also wrote “ Once you take that left turn and see the gargoyle on the stone pillar that says “museum,” you have left the real world and entered something you may have imagined in a fantastical daydream. The Frazetta estate is a surreal, sprawling wonderland with a lake a wrought iron benches to compliment the totally green surrounds.
The sense of family is strong when you see the homes of all the Frazetta’s just a stones throw away from each other. Then you see Frank Frazetta and wish you had a brush stroke of genius and think how the stuff he paints seems to express your innermost sense of art. Once you have entered the museum you are not prepared to see every single original of every single famous painting ever created and you are struck numb by the sheer awesome overwhelming thought that this is everything baby!!! The Frazetta’s know how to treat their friends and admirers with first class treatment all the way. I must have said it a dozen times that day, I never realized the 3 dimensional qualities his oils possessed. The Cat Girl was so green and the paint seemed to be growing right out of the trees behind her. Frank gave little personal tours in the evening, but what do you say to someone famous you are meeting for the first time without sounding …well…dumb? So I said, “Mr. Frazetta, Do you ever touch up any of the faded or cracking paintings?” He took me by the arm and said “Oh, yeah if it needs it – Like the Dark King – on his knee-right?” and I said “Yes, exactly”, come on, he said and he led me over to the Dark Kingdom to take a closer look. “Yeah, I’’ just push some paint in there, “ he said. Then asked me to touch the painting. “What? No, I couldn’t touch it” I said, “No, I want you to touch it” Frank said, “ I want to see if the alarm goes off!” “Ok” I said – I mean here I had permission to touch a million dollar painting – so I did – but the alarm did not go off. We looked at each other and shared a laugh. “Thanks” I said to him and then he was off showing some else the magic only he can command. I was so full of the perfect day and so glad I attended. I will never forget what a wonderful experience I had.”
As the guests enjoyed sharing thoughts of their personal experience with Frank’s artwork with each other, soft music filled the background as a 3 piece wood ensemble was hired for their listening pleasure. Around 2:30 Frank was led out of his home by his elder son Frank. An immediate round of applause ensued. Frank Jr. and friend Dave Winiewicz escorted him to the large steel gate guarding the museum entrance. Frank was handed a pair of scissors to cut the ribbon wrapping the entrance doors.
As Frank opened the huge wooden doors, his son Frank escorted him in. We had plans after my father cut the ribbon, but the large crowd soon dictated us as they followed us in and formed a line wrapping around the interior of the museum. My original plans immediately soon changed from photo shoot with Frank at 3:45 to NOW! It was wonderful to see all the joy on our guest faces as my father greeted them. Everyone was very gracious and thankful for all the pleasure and inspiration he gave them personally. As we shook hands the guests took photos with my father, he also answered all the questions that was asked over the course of an hour and a half. It was an enjoyable site for all whom attended.
Following a toast, everyone enjoyed the wonderful food that was catered by a local establishment. Stuffed shrimp, pasta and roast beef were among the wide variety of delicious foods available. Then following the main course an array of Italian pastries were brought to put the finishing touched on a perfect dinner. The open bar continued to serve drinks through the remainder of the evening. I was so busy talking with many of the fans I never had a chance to taste any of the food during the course of the day. I did manage to sneak in a few cream puffs and éclairs to get me through the night. I had the pleasure of speaking with my Dad’s school friends Nick Meglin and Angelo Torres again, I saw them last when we went to Coney Island in August of 2000. They are always a delight to listen to, especially Nick. I met with Ralph Bakahi for a moment and listened in on some of the stories pertaining to the movie auditioning for Fire and Ice. Oh how they took their sweet time to choose the right girl to play the main roll of Tegra. I spoke with Mike Kaluta for an hour and enjoyed some wonderful stress form my Dad’s past that I had never heard before. Hickman, Jusko and Blair were among other fellow artists who attended. During the dinner ceremony, Mrs. Frazetta closed the museum and brought out 25 more rare original oils just so the crowd could be re-energized once again. A wonderful touch to the festivities. Once again everyone scrambled back in to see the magnificent oils that had just been framed prior to the grand opening. Most guests were still in awe from the first showing and now had an additional viewing of the more rare Frazetta oils.
All guest received a collectable Champagne glass inscribed in gold ink “Frazetta Grand Opening 2001” Only 150 of these were produced just for this event. At a later date, all paid attendees will receive a 20-page memory book with all the guests’ names inside the cover. There will be many photos that were taken throughout the day and some lucky fans will see themselves in the photos. Each book will be sealed, numbered and initialed by Frank Frazetta. I hope to have this ready by late October.
The official activates came to an end around 8pm. Everyone slowly walked to their cars and off into the sunset, emotionally drained and aesthetically saturated. The entire Frazetta family brought off a completely first class event that thrilled everyone. The Frazetta’s also want to thank each and every individual in attendance for his or her personal touch in making Mr. Frazetta’s day a memorable one. He enjoyed the day as much as everyone.The Frazetta Museum: History & Development
“An artist is as popular as his fan base and the museum was built as a tribute to them which made it all possible.“ -Mrs. Ellie Frazetta
The original museum was located in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in the mid 1980's on the 3rd floor of Frank's 12,000 ft. building. Always concerned that a fire it would make it impossible for fire fighters to access the 3rd floor in time to save a lifetimes artwork, Frank's fears were nearly realized when a fire broke out on the lower floors of the building in 1997 and closed the museum. Fortunately no artwork was damaged.
Plans to relocate the gallery in Boca Grande, Florida followed and Frank purchased a beautiful ocean front complex for the gallery with two large apartments and an adjacent tree house apartment next to the island's native Bawjan trees to serve as his new studio. However, factors such as the affects of the temperate region on the artwork and distance from family soon called the family back to Pennsylvania.
"There is nothing like standing directly in front of a Frazetta original."
Taking nearly two years to complete, the new concrete and stucco structure was designed by the Frank Frazetta himself with the architectural, interior floor plan and landscape design done by Frank Frazetta Jr. Originally inspired and planned for construction in Florida, the Mediterranean and Spanish Revival style building is 100% fire proof and engineered for climate control to enhance preservation of the artwork for generations to come. The floors are Italian ceramic tile and no expense was spared by the late Mrs. Ellie Frazetta on the African décor featured throughout.
A short 90 minute trip from New York or Philadelphia puts the visitor face-to-face with original treasures across from the very studio home where they were created. Overlooking a beautiful five-acre lake set at the base of rolling hills on a 67 acre estate in the Poconos Mountains, the Frazetta Museum welcomes visitors from around the world and houses a lifetime of ground-breaking brilliance.
Beginning with some of his earliest known pieces dating back to 1933, much of Mr. Frazetta's private memorabilia is also available for viewing and displayed within the time frame it was originally used such as his baseball paraphernalia from his teenage years, the classical records that inspired his greatest oil paintings, his extensive camera collection and golf clubs. Frank Frazetta painted as he lived: passionately and the Frazetta Museum reveals such a life lived passionately and uncompromising.
The loyalty and support of fans over forty years helped make Ellie's dream a reality.
"The art didn't own Frank; Frank owned the art."
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