The Greatest Artist of the 20th Century is Dead. Long Live Frank Frazetta!
Published at: May 10, 2010, 4:42 p.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here with some sad, but not entirely unexpected news. My favorite painter of the 20th Century has gone.
What made Frank Frazetta my favorite artist?
Well... you see, I was raised in a Comic Book shop called N.E. Mercantile Inc. as a child of the Seventies. At that time, Frank's mass subconscious imagery that he pulled out of the minds of those that read Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howard... well, it was everywhere. I grew up surrounded by his prints - My father is a devout follower of Frazetta's life's work. He taught me how to spot Frazetta's line work even when he was ghosting on other work to which his iconic signature was not attached. But when that glorious signature peppered a work, my god... what a work.
Frazetta painted my favorite female body type - not the anorexic teenage flat belly, but a womanly shape with a heft to the breasts and slight paunch to the belly and shapely thighs. His women were affected by gravity, but in the same way that a woman longing for your caress is held by gravity.
But it wasn't merely the genius of his way with the female form... as exquisite as it was. No, Frazetta unleashed a visual awesome unmatched by any other artist in history. His brush strokes were deep and fierce - not the light smooth paintings of most modern timid artists. Frank painted passionately and you could see that passion in his work.
He had an ability to freeze the exact second upon which everything hinged. The calm before the frenzy, the contemplation of doom. Frank changed fantasy art forever, if only giving all artists that followed a peak that none have reached.
I haven't spoken much about my time on JOHN CARTER OF MARS, while it was in development for those long years at Paramount, but during that time I was tasked with bringing each of the various directors that we worked with to the project - and in all cases - I used the carrot of Frazetta to bring them in closer. The dream of capturing on film the vision of John Carter that Frank Frazetta painted oh so briefly in his time toying with Barsoom... it was the challenge that brought Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, Kerry Conran and Jon Favreau to the project. We wanted to capture that spirit and that tone. So much so, that while Rodriguez was on board directing, we actually had Frank agreed to artistically supervise the work being done by our concept artists. His stroke kept him from being able to do any real output, but Rodriguez flew up to meet with Frank at his museum and I was honored to spend a bit of time on the phone with Frank... someone that I hadn't met since I was about 7 years old.
Frank changed cinema in a way that is subtle and often unspoken - but all you need do is look at film in the wake of his time as THE pop culture artist of the time. He captured the collective Id of those that ever dreamt of fantasy.
Frazetta, like Ray Harryhausen, is a towering figure for most serious genre lovers. When the genre was typically under-financed - it was these two men that kept the dream alive. Ray at 24 frames a second and Frazetta with a single unconnected frame.
I have two Frazetta works hanging in my living room. One was a production gift from Paul Dini after he finished the first draft on GHOST TOWN, the other was from Robert Rodriguez when we were making JOHN CARTER. Ironically enough, Robert only just gave me this PRINCESS OF MARS piece last week, as it was lost in his storage.
The dream of capturing Frazetta is alive in many filmmakers, let us hope it is alive in Andrew Stanton and Marcus Nispel as they each tackle a pair of Frank's most iconic work with John Carter and Conan respectively.
I still have yet to see anything come close to capturing the essence of Frazetta on film. Well, other than FIRE & ICE which he worked on with Ralph Bakshi - and of course the brilliant documentary on Frank called PAINTING WITH FIRE. Here's a series of Videos showing off some of Frank's work... It really is the way to discover his brilliance. And I'd kill for a Frazetta App.
I keep hoping we will have another artist that produces such a gut reaction to their art as I have when i look at Frank's work. Be it a pencil sketch or a finished oil, there is something astonishing about his work. Right now, I'm trying to save up to buy a Frazetta nude pencil that my wife and I both feel captures her perfectly. And yes, that makes me a very happy man.
Frank Frazetta will continue to live through his art and the influence his art has given a myriad of artists in just about every medium. Today a God died, but I for one, will continue to worship at his altar... in my living room.