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FRAZETTA: KING OF PAINT Chapter 9: 1972(Part 1)

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FRAZETTA: KING OF PAINT Chapter 9: 1972(Part 1)

by Paul Vespignani



MIDSUMMER CENTURY(1972)(oil painting)/MIDSUMMER CENTURY(aka BIRDMAN)(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1972)

MIDSUMMER CENTURY(1972)(oil painting)


MIDSUMMER CENTURY(aka BIRDMAN)(date unknown)(oil repainting)(copyright date 1972)


This one is pretty simple: Frank added a half dozen or so abstract green spots to the original monochromatic Burnt Umber painting to give it a bit of extra visual interest. The green accented painting made its debut in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK TWO(1977) and(hard to believe) it was produced as a poster by Frazetta Prints. This poster raises an important question. Why were Frank and Ellie totally OK turning a relatively minor painting like this one into a poster while over a dozen major masterworks by Frazetta(I won't tax your patience by listing them specifically) were NEVER produced as posters?


NATIONAL LAMPOON 27(aka ALIEN CRUCIFIXION)(1972)(oil painting)(1st version)/NATIONAL LAMPOON 27(1972)(oil repainting)(published version)


NATIONAL LAMPOON 27(aka ALIEN CRUCIFIXION)(1972)(oil painting)(1st version)


Frank has gone on record that for his 1st version of ALIEN CRUCIFIXION he had given the alien 2 legs which the editorial minions at NATIONAL LAMPOON asked him to paint out. Apparently their thinking was that a legless alien on a cross would somehow be potentially less offensive or controversial to their customers than an alien with legs. NL's concept was that right around the alien's waist his body would transition into a large snake tail, sort of the way a mermaid at waist level turns into an oversized fishtail. Frazetta's repainting to achieve this effect totally fails to be at all convincing in any way. You can almost SEE his complete lack of interest or enthusiasm in truncating his perfectly fine original painting.
NATIONAL LAMPOON 27(1972)(oil repainting)(published version)


Frank's initial instinct for this painting was totally correct. Not only does the alien look much better with legs, the whole composition looks much better when he has legs. Frazetta made the point of giving the alien FOUR ARMS and providing the alien cross with X-shaped cross bars(as opposed to the traditional t-shaped Roman cross) so that even the most dense viewer can very clearly see that this crucified figure is an alien and NOT a human being. Considering this, NL's request to have the alien's legs removed was unnecessary censorship overkill. However NL did give this cover painting top notch repro quality so it still looked good even in its sadly reduced state.  

The 1st version made its public debut in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FIVE(1985) but unfortunately the poor quality of this particular reproduction did not do it justice. It looks a whole lot better in the more recent release THE FANTASTIC WORLDS OF FRANK FRAZETTA(2022).


WITCH OF THE DARK GATE(aka SWAMP DEMON)(1972)(oil painting)(1st version)/WITCH OF THE DARK GATE(1972)(oil repainting)(published version)(copyright date 1968)

13 years after the publication of Frank's beloved cover painting for WITCH OF THE DARK GATE it was revealed in FRANK FRAZETTA: BOOK FIVE that an earlier and very different looking version of this cover painting existed. Frazetta liked this earlier version enough to take a color photo of it before painting over it. As was the similar case 1 year before for CONAN THE BUCCANEER(1971) Frank did an early version of the painting, photographed that version, and then did a major repainting and submitted the repainting to the publisher to be used as the book cover. With both of these paintings the Frazetta faithful assumed they were both done-in-one paintings because the contrary photographic evidence did not surface until many years later.


WITCH OF THE DARK GATE(aka SWAMP DEMON)(1972)(oil painting)(1st version)

  Looking at the 1st version of WOTDG all the basic compositional elements are already there: back view of a naked woman standing in the water in the foreground and an oversized creature looming in the background. Frank obviously had a major rethink and radically reimagined this original idea and changed everything very dramatically. The blond woman from #1 was transformed into a much larger scale Nubian woman(FF's own description of her) with a completely bald head and a fairly large snake wrapped somewhat suggestively around her. The oddball #1 creature almost looked like a mastodon who had been delivered by an alien mothership. The gigantic monster #2 looks like no animal or human on the planet Earth but is rather the personification of pure evil. Here Frazetta lets his imagination run wild and the triumphant result is truly wonderful.

The waterlilies and vines incorporated into the surrounding swampy landscape are all very nicely done.

WITCH OF THE DARK GATE(1972)(oil repainting)(published version)(copyright date 1968)


WOTDG was published in late 1972 so it must have been painted in 1972, but FF inexplicably gave it a copyright date of 1968. It was not unusual for Frank to be 1 or 2 years off on a copyright date but 4 years adrift IS quite abnormal for him. He later blacked out the 1968 date(perhaps his unspoken admission that he goofed on the date) but did not substitute a replacement date. Even more odd, instead of using the traditional copyright symbol of the lower case c surrounded by a perfect circle he here puts the lower case c and the circle side-by-side like this: co. Now no one has ever accused me of being a lawyer, but I am pretty sure the USA copyright office does NOT consider co to be a legitimate copyright symbol.
I bought the Frazetta Prints poster of WOTDG in 1975 and that poster was a knockout. The repro was so fine it captured all sorts of subtleties that the various art book reproductions can never quite get. No question that this painting goes on the short list of Frazetta's greatest artistic achievements and is one of his most imaginative images ever.


ATLANTIS RISING(1)(aka ATLANTIS)(1972)(oil painting)(unfinished 1st version)(copyright date 1982)/ATLANTIS RISING(2)(1972)(oil repainting)(published version)(copyright date 1972)

ATLANTIS RISING(2)(1972)(oil repainting)(published version)(copyright date 1972)

The real life story for Frank's cover painting for ATLANTIS RISING is that he was about halfway into painting it when he realized he had miscalculated and did not have enough space for the water below the standing statue to provide the amount of statue reflection he wanted in the water. Under normal circumstances he would have simply redrew and repainted it on the original(and no one would have known the difference) but as fate would have it a family member was visiting his studio right at this time and provided Frazetta with a 2nd piece of canvas board to start all over again from the beginning. The half finished painting was gifted to the family member and a decade later FF signed and copyright dated it in 1982.  

ATLANTIS RISING is pretty fascinating because it suggests a whole new genre of painting that Frank could have fruitfully explored if he had been interested. As it turned out he was NOT interested. However the excellent 1st version cover painting for FRANK FRAZETTA'S DEATH DEALER BOOK 2: LORDS OF DESTRUCTION(aka DEATH DEALER III)(1987) projects a likewise sense of peace and tranquility.  

Despite the understandable popularity of the finished painting, AR might be one of FF's least known repaintings due to the very late date of the public debut of the unfinished 1st version in 2016(with some additional exposure for it in 2020).


ATLANTIS RISING(1)(aka ATLANTIS)(1972)(oil painting)(unfinished 1st version)(copyright date 1982)




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