May 11, 2010

Frank Frazetta dies, age 82

ART HISTORY - Arguably the greatest fantasy artist to ever live died yesterday. Frank Frazetta was a fantasy art legend famous for his images of Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, the Death Dealer and other heroic figures of fantasy fiction.

Frazetta suffered a stroke on May 9th and died May 10th in Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 82 years old.

Frank Frazetta's artwork is famous in the fantasy art world. To draw comparisons he is like Andy Warhol to Pop Art, Pablo Picasso to Cubism or the Group of Seven to Canadian Art.

Frazetta’s paintings were mostly in oil, but his canvases were rarely seen in museums because fantasy art is considered too low brow by some art critics. His fans however were the millions of readers who enjoyed all variety of fantasy books, comic books and a simple pleasure in the heroic art form.

As an art historian fantasy art in its purest sense is about hero worship. Man Vs. Beast. Man rescuing Woman. Man vanguishing evil. All the simplicity of Bruce Willis in a Die Hard movie, but with all the swords and sorcery of The Lord of the Rings.

Right: In November 2009, a berserk battlefield image that graced a Conan the Conqueror paperback (painted in 1967) sold for $1 million to a private collector.

Frank Frazetta's long, restless career started in the 1940s and took him into Hollywood work, posters, animation, commercial art and almost every corner of American illustration. He was still painting in the late 1990s when his health began to dwindle.

John Milius, the director and co-writer of Conan the Barbarian, the 1982 film that was based on the warrior character created by pulp writer Robert E. Howard in 1932. Milius said Monday that it was Frazetta’s muscular paintings of Conan that defined the character for him and modern generations of fans. "Not that I could ever redo Frazetta on film—he created a world and a mood that are impossible to simulate—but my goal in Conan the Barbarian was to tell a story that was shaped by Frazetta and Wagner," says Milius.

In July 2009 Frank Frazetta’s wife Eleanor or Ellie died. Frank's health was deteriorating and his children began to squabble over his custody and his art collection, which is estimated to be worth $20 to $50 million.

Frank Frazetta is survived by two sons, two daughters and 11 grandchildren.

See Also
Conan the Berserker

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