Word is going around the internet that legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta has died at age 82, but we haven’t been able to confirm this, despite many tweets and blog postings stating that he has died. At this point it has to be considered UNCONFIRMED although he has been in ill health of late, and was hospitalized yesterday.
UPDATE: We are sad to confirm via Frazetta’s agent Robert Pistella that the artist passed away this afternoon in a hospital near his home. The cause of death was a stroke. Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly.
Frank Frazetta was born February 9, 1928. His early artistic career consisted of years of exquisitely drawn comics work, including contributions to the EC line of comics, assisting Al Capp on L’il Abner and later drawing several years of the strip, and working with Harvey Kurtzman on Little Annie Fanny.
In the ’60s, Frazetta turned to cover paintings for the thriving pulp paperback industry and created one of the most recognizable illustration styles of all time. His covers for Conan, Tarzan and other rough-hewn heroes created a visceral, violent, erotic yet somehow still nuanced visual style that has been endlessly imitated but never surpassed — Frazetta’s imagery of brawny, relentless swordsmen, seductive, fleshy sirens and hellfire breathing monsters had a gut level impact because it came from the gut — his many followers were just tracing without the passion of the originals.
In recent years, as reported here and elsewhere, the Frazetta estate had been much in dispute among his four children, following the death of his wife, Ellie. After some family squabbles that could only be called stressful and embarrassing, peace was made, however, and the sale of some of Frazetta’s most iconic paintings had begun, notably with the $1,000,000 sale of one of his paintings to a buyer believed to be Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. Another Frazetta painting was recently put up for auction, although it was not owned by the family.
Below is one of the last known public photos of Frazetta, shown in February at a family barbeque in Florida with his daughters and granddaughter.
I’m a pulp girl at heart; Frazetta was one of the great image makers of my youth and I’m personally saddened beyond words at his passing. Despite everything that’s gone on with the family, Frazetta’s legacy will surely be as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, a fantastic image maker whose imagination will live on for generations to come.
Our condolences to his friends and family.
UPDATE: More of my thoughts on Frazetta and links to more reminiscences can be found here.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.