I discovered Frank Frazetta's art and Edgar Rice Burroughs' writing at the same moment, when I came across the Ace paperback edition of ERB's Pellucidar in a box of books in my grandmother's basement when I was about twelve years old. I have no idea how that book came to be there - perhaps it had once belonged to one of my uncles or my late grandfather - but that Frazetta cover (above) with that amazing woman, sabertooth and swooping pterodactyls (Mahars, actually, but what did I know from Mahars?) grabbed me like a strong fist around my throat.
There was always something visceral about Frazetta's art, no matter what the subject, that no other painter, regardless of talent or skill, has ever matched. In his use of color, his idealized, heroically-muscled women and men that appeared ready to jump right off the page, his imaginative, awe-inspiring vistas - he was unequalled. In the field of fantasy illustration, Frazetta had no rivals (and still doesn't) - Frazetta cover paintings guaranteed the sales success of the titles they graced, and publishers and art directors fell over themselves to commission him. For generations of fantasy fans, he will always be the definitive illustrator of the worlds of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and countless other fantasists.
Other artists - however technically proficient or talented - simply could not duplicate the raw sensuality and pure, primal energy of his work. A documentary about his art was released in 2003, entitled, Painting With Fire. A more apt description of his style, I cannot imagine. Frazetta painted with fire.
Frank Frazetta died today at age 82, leaving behind a tremendous body of inspiring, breathtaking masterworks, and a legion of artists, writers and readers who couldn't help falling passionately in love with his stunning, unique vision.
Rest in Peace, sir!