Frank Frazetta pin-up artist

Frank Frazetta's work is so highly regarded that even incomplete pencil sketches sell for thousands of dollars

Frank FrazettaFrank Frazetta (1928 - 2010)

Frazetta's work has long been admired by many Hollywood personalities. Clint Eastwood and George Lucas - fans and friends of Frazetta's - commissioned works from him for some of their movie projects.

Left - Frank in 1994

Frazetta was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of eight, at the insistence of his school teachers, Frazetta's parents enrolled him in the Brooklyn Acadamy of Fine Arts. He attended the academy for eight years under the tutelage of Michele Falanga, an award winning Italian fine artist. Falanga was struck by Frazetta's significant talent. Frazetta's abilities flourished under Falanga, who dreamed of sending Frazetta to Europe, at his own expense, to further his studies. Unfortunately, Falanga died suddenly in 1944 and with him, his dream. As the school closed about a year after Falanga's passing, Frazetta was forced to find work to earn a living.

Now sixteen, Frazetta started writing comic books that varied in themes: westerns, fantasy, mysteries, histories and other contemporary themes. During this period he turned down job offers from comic giants such as Walt Disney.

Through the work on the Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies, Frazetta started working with Al Capp and his Li'l Abner strip. Frazetta's work for Capp focussed mostly on the Johnny Comet daily strip, but also filled in for Capp from time to time. After nine years with Capp, Frazetta returned to regular comics. Having emulated Capp's style for so long, Frazetta's own work during this period looked a bit awkward as his own style struggled to re-emerge.

Work in comics for Frazetta was hard to find, however. Comics had changed during his period with Capp and his style was deemed antiquated. Eventually he joined Playboy magazine doing the parody strip Li'l Annie Fannie.

By 1964, Frazetta started producing paintings for paperback editions of adventure books. His first cover for the pulp fiction novel Conan the Barbarian caused a sensation - numerous people bought the book for its cover alone. From this point on, Frazetta's work was in great demand. During this period he also did covers for other paperback editions of classic Edgar Rice Burroughs books, such as those from the Tarzan and Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) series. He also did several pen and ink illustrations for many of these books.

Since this time, most of Frazetta's work has been commercial in nature, providing paintings and illustrations from things such as movie posters to book jackets to calendars. Many of his paintings are un-commissioned but have nonetheless become highly sought after commercially.

Once he secured a reputation, movie studios started trying to lure him to work on animated movies. Most, however, would give him participation in name only - most of the creative control would be held by others. Finally in the early 1980s a movie deal was offered which would give him most creative control. Frazetta worked with well-known animated movie producer Ralph Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice released in 1983. Many of the characters and most of the story were Frazetta's creations. The movie proved to be a commercial disappointment, however, as Frazetta's fantastic imagery could not be sufficiently reproduced via then-current animation technology and methods. Frazetta soon returned to his roots in painting and pen and ink illustrations.

Frank Frazetta Died in May 2010, aged 82. "He's going to be remembered as the most renowned fantasy illustrator of the 20th Century," said his manager, Rob Pistella.

All images in this gallery are copyright © the Frazetta estate. All rights reserved.
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