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FRAZETTA: KING OF PAINT Chapter 5: 1967/1968

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Chapter 5: 1967/1968

by Paul Vespignani

 CREEPY 16 (1967)(oil painting)/Creepy 16 (aka CAT GIRL) (date unknown) (oil repainting) (copyright date 1984) 

CREEPY 16 COVER (1967)(oil painting)/Creepy 16 (aka CAT GIRL)
While I agree with Frank that his CAT GIRL repainting is much better than the original CREEPY 16 cover painting I am by no means anywhere near as dismissive of the original painting as he was. I still think the first painting was pretty wonderful. It is an exercise in nihilism to paint over a lesser masterpiece to merely provide a painting surface for a greater masterpiece. Since the CAT GIRL repainting was a 100% repaint it should have been painting on a second canvas board with the original cover painting receiving a well deserved reprieve as a valuable compositional variant on the same theme.  Two CAT GIRL paintings would have been better than only one! 
    CREEPY 16 (1967)(oil painting)/Creepy 16 (aka CAT GIRL)
There is a well known story of the first (and only) visit to the Frazetta home by movie producer Dino De Laurentiis that happened at some point in the 2nd half of the 1970s. Reportedly Dino immediately fell in love with CAT GIRL repainting when he 1st laid eyes on it and offered Frazetta one million dollars to buy it. Frank turned him down. I'm not absolutely sure if this account is totally true or just another urban legend, but if it is not true, it SHOULD be. The real life scenario of the USA's top artist inadvertently telling the super-rich and super-privileged movie mogul to get stuffed is mighty good chicken soup for the soul. As a co-worker of mine once joked in the early 1980s: "I hate to say I don't need the money, but I DON'T NEEED THE MONEY!" Frank didn't need Dino's money...what he needed was to keep his beloved CAT GIRL repainting close to home. There has been some perhaps reasonable speculation that Dino's very obvious and ongoing animosity toward Frazetta from that point onward was rooted in his annoyance that Frank refused to sell him the CAT GIRL repainting. 
Creepy 16 (aka CAT GIRL) (date unknown) (oil repainting) (copyright date 1984) 
Frazetta has gone on the record that the CAT GIRL repainting is his personal favorite among his vast painting catalog and the one he feels best sums up his artistic approach, style, and subject matter(kind of like NORTH BY NORTHWEST(1959) was for Alfred Hitchcock). Considering this, it is a mystery why Frank waited until the relatively late date of 1985 to finally unveil this all-important painting to the general public for the 1st time in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FIVE.

I don't interpret the 1984 copyright date as definitive proof that Frazetta did the CAT GIRL repainting in 1984. More likely Frank and Ellie compiled the contents for FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FIVE as early as 1984 and he used the then-current year of 1984 as the copyright date. I'm not a betting man, but my gut instinct tells me Frazetta probably did the CAT GIRL repainting sometime in the first half of the 1970s(and I have no way of actually PROVING that beyond a shadow of a doubt).  

While the 1st 4 Frazetta art books were closely tied in to the contemporaneous Frazetta Prints poster business it is extremely odd that NONE of the paintings that appeared in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FIVE were produced as posters at the time of this book's publication. Ultimately 4 paintings from the book became posters(including the CAT GIRL repainting) but that only happened some years down the line.    

Frank and Ellie repurposed the CAT GIRL repainting as an extra special signed and numbered 300 count limited edition print for the Frazetta Art Museum with the image area surrounded by a white border and a large simulated signature FRANK FRAZETTA logo. For each print in the white border area Frank did an individual pen and ink drawing featuring the girl-and-cat theme and all of these variant drawings that have emerged on the internet have been absolute knockouts. A less limited version of this print with a dark green border was also produced(minus the original art drawings and the signatures and numbering).
 Limited edition print for the Frazetta Art Museum


WOLFSHEAD(aka GREEN DEATH(1))(1967 or 1968)(oil painting)(copyright date 1967)/WOLFSHEAD(aka GREEN DEATH(2))(1980)(oil repainting)

WOLFSHEAD PAPERBACK (aka GREEN DEATH(1))(1967 or 1968)(oil painting)(copyright date 1967)

As it was with the similar cases involving MASAI WARRIOR(1960) and A PRINCESS OF MARS(1970) Frank and Ellie made the financial decision to sell the original art for WOLFSHEAD(aka GREEN DEATH) to an art collector in 1980 with Frazetta being immediately tasked to do a likewise repainting of it(to replace the one that had been sold) for the family art collection. Just a coincidence, but it is interesting that these 3 repaintings were spaced exactly 10 years apart and each was painted in the 1st year of a new decade.

Since the original GD painting was a vertical 16 x 20 rectangle it is a bit puzzling why Frank decided to do the repainting as a substantially smaller 12 x 12 square. As most artists will be happy to tell you, painting somewhat bigger is more physically comfortable than painting somewhat smaller. So why did Frazetta voluntarily make things more difficult for himself by replicating this painting at such a small size? Of course doing a painting with this level of realistic detail on an original essentially the size of a record album cover was a truly awesome technical achievement by Frank.

Comparing the 2 paintings, the hero and the large green snake enveloping him in the foreground and the snake-headed statue in the middle ground are practically identical in both paintings, although very close observation reveals some subtle differences(most notably the design pattern of the hero's armored wristbands are somewhat altered). 


WOLFSHEAD(aka GREEN DEATH(1))(1967 or 1968)(oil painting)(copyright date 1967)

Where the repainting takes some major liberties is in the depiction of the woman in the middle ground and the wizard in the far background, and both are majorly improved in the repainting. The back view of the presumably helpless woman lying on the ground in the original has been replaced with a much more appealingly proactive woman in a more upright position and she is beautifully drawn and painted by Frazetta. Another big plus is that the shape of the figure of woman #2 has a much greater design synergy with the overall composition which has much greater unity in the repainting. 

The tiny figure of the wizard has been reduced to a couple of very well designed abstract shapes as opposed to the more overt skullface wizard of the original. 
On the pillar next to the wizard's left hand Frank adds an abstract spot of red which harmonizes in a lovely way with the red on the hero's sword with the 2 reds contrasting very nicely with the green of the snake. 
Although the original GD was an undisputed masterpiece, the repainting is an improvement in every way...therefore it must be put on the short list of Frazetta's very best repaintings(even though it is also one of the smallest). 
Much of the confusion about the 12 x 12 GD repainting over the decades was due to it being mislabeled(and even misunderstood) by 2 major Frazetta art books. Shortly after Frank did the repainting in 1980 it appeared in a relatively small half page repro in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FOUR(1980) where a caption mislabeled it as a: Sketch. LEGACY(1999) fell even further down this misinformation sinkhole by calling this repainting: An initial oil rough and then giving it the way-incorrect creation date of 1968. As anyone with 2 eyes and a brain in their skull can plainly see, this 12 x 12 repainting is just as much of a finished painting as the 16 x 20 original. This was very obviously no "sketch" and surely no "initial oil rough".
As it turned out the true pedigree of the two GD paintings wasn't really fully clarified until 2020 and then only in a fairly minimal fashion.

WOLFSHEAD(aka GREEN DEATH(2))(1980)(oil repainting)

WOLFSHEAD (aka GREEN DEATH) (1980) watercolor prelim)

CONAN THE AVENGER(1968)(oil painting)/CONAN THE AVENGER(aka SACRIFICE)(1980)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1980)

In Frank's cover art for CONAN THE AVENGER the painting of Conan has a lot working against him: a daft looking helmet, a doofus facial expression, and swinging arms in an ape-like positioning. Frank was right when he said the 1980 repainting of this Conan figure was greatly improved, although I always thought Conan #2 looked a bit like an underdressed football player(not that there's anything WRONG with that!).
I greatly prefer the beautiful woman in the original painting over the strangely depersonalized naked woman in the repainting(who actually has her face turned away from the viewer so you can't even see her facial expression). The original woman bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor. Some years earlier Frazetta did a personal watercolor featuring a Barbara Eden lookalike, so I think the Liz lookalike was quite intentional and not a happy accident or a coincidence. Liz and her then-husband Richard Burton were mass media sensations in 1968 which probably explains why she was on Frank's radar at this time.
CONAN THE AVENGER(1968)(oil painting)
Both versions of this painting contain a bizarre perspective anomaly concerning the profile view of the knife-wielding senior citizen wizard. In the composition the wizard is clearly in the foreground, the sacrificial altar and the woman are in the middle ground, and Conan is in the background. Granted in this particular situation the foreground, middle ground, and background are all in pretty close proximity to each other. However Conan is SUBSTANTIALLY bigger than the wizard as if he is running 5 or 10 feet in FRONT of the wizard. Or to put it another way, compared to Conan the wizard is as diminutive as an actual child. Frazetta could have easily fixed this in the repainting process by making the figure of the wizard bigger and more on scale with Conan. This would not have hurt the composition...indeed, it might have helped it. Anytime I look at either version of this painting this perspective problem really bugs me, but I have to accept it as a permanent feature of this painting.
The SACRIFICE repainting was the 1st Conan painting to be used as a cover to a Frazetta art book(for FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FOUR(1980)).
   CONAN THE AVENGER(aka SACRIFICE)(1980)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1980)

THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKYS(1968)(watercolor painting)/THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKYS(1968)(watercolor revision paste ups)

If you take a look at Frank's subgenre of movie poster art it is quite obvious that United Artists was his most frequent employer. He did far more movie poster art jobs for UA as compared to any other movie studio. To the best of my knowledge THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKYS was the one and only time UA censored or interfered with Frazetta's art, but in this particular case they went WAY overboard. It is pretty easy to view UA as the villains in this situation. Not only did they have the unmitigated audacity to ask Frank to further cover up his already tastefully rendered burlesque women, but they also gave him a ridiculously long list of actors and actresses they wanted added, deleted, substituted, or altered from Frazetta's original painting.

As always Frank was a pro and complied with all of UA's many unreasonable demands, most likely keeping in mind the extra large paycheck he would earn in the end for this piece of movie poster art.

There is plenty of visual evidence that Frazetta's original uncensored painting for TNTRM has survived over the years and that he did not do any repainting or revisions directly on the original art piece.

Taking into account that the published art seen on the movie poster and accompanying soundtrack album cover is a sort of 50/50 split between the original painting and the boatload of revisions, I have come up with a plausible theory of how Frank(perhaps with the assistance of a UA production artist) accomplished this hybrid image without destroying the original:



  1. Frazetta painted the revised actors/actresses and the censorship bits and pieces in watercolor on separate pieces of paper.
  2. A clear acetate sheet was placed over the original painting.
  3. Frank(or the UA production artist) carefully cut out and trimmed the revision and censorship pieces and pasted them up over the appropriate areas on the clear acetate sheet.
  4. This hybrid painting was photographed for reproduction.
  5. After reproduction photography the acetate overlay sheet was removed and most likely discarded.
  6. The uncensored original art was either retained by UA or returned to Frank and Ellie.

Generally speaking movie companies kept the original art done for their movie posters. This bothered Frazetta but he saw it as an acceptable tradeoff for the substantially higher paychecks he got for movie poster art compared to the much lower fees he was more regularly earning for the book and magazine covers that were his artistic bread and butter. 

The uncensored painting of TNTRM received its public debut 10 years after the movie release in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK THREE(1978).




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