Wednesday, December 28, 2016


With a legacy of comic book and ACE paperback covers already to his credit, Frank Frazetta exploded onto the pop culture scene and into mass media consciousness when he began working for Lancer Publishing, another company that cranked out paperbacks by the carload. Similar to the artists that signed up for work with Marty Goodman's ATLAS/SEABOARD line a decade later (see recent MMW post HERE), Frazetta would not only make more money for his prodigious and exuberant talent, but he would also see the return of his art. Most noted during this period for his fantastic covers of the Lancer Conan series, his cover for the John Beynon Harris (nee John "Day of the of the Triffids" Wyndham) "Lost World" science fiction novel, "The Secret People", surpasses even some of the Conan covers for its vibrant depiction of imaginative fantasy.

The picture shown here is as it looked at auction in 2002, when it sold for $48,300.

Description of Lot# 7572:
"Frank Frazetta - Original Watercolor Painting, "The Secret People" (Lancer, 1964). Frank Frazetta began his career with ACE paperbacks in the early 1960s where he painted a series of covers based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Throughout these early years Frazetta was unappreciated by management, dismally underpaid, and, the ultimate indignity, not allowed to keep his original art. A call from the art director at Lancer Publications in 1964 changed all that. After being offered more money, a menu of widely diverse subject-matters, and the opportunity to retain his original art, Frazetta infused in these newer works an extra energy, power, and personal enthusiasm that was immediately apparent. The wondrous watercolor of "The Secret People" has been described as "The best science fiction paperback cover ever," and we offer no argument to that accolade. It was executed for John Beynon Harris's novel of the same name during this inspired period. John Beynon Harris was a pseudonym for John Wyndham, a well-known science fiction writer best known for The Day of the Triffids. In the image presented here, Frazetta demonstrates his consummate mastery of the watercolor (believed by Frazetta experts to be his very best medium). The scene of fantastic mushrooms and exotic peoples called for a delicate approach that only watercolor could provide. One immediately notes the subtle blending of delicate tints that are found throughout the composition: the fleshy mushrooms, the cavern walls, the reflections in the water, the deliciously clinging dress of the girl, and the mossy ground. The eye revels in all the tiny details and subtleties that Frazetta has presented the viewer. Consider the modeling of the hero's face and the strength it contains, his beautifully drawn jacket with intricate folds and convolutions, his gesturing/striding into this fantastic land of strange peoples. Consider also his female partner with her soft face. Delicate rendering lines add sensuality to her glance; her open lips, wild hair, and shining dress reinforce her erotic power and add considerably to the visual interest. Of course, the swirl of bats energizes the moment and charges the tableau with resonances of old mysteries and tales. Frazetta masterfully weaves all these elements into a design that is flawless and perfectly balanced. This painting is a wonderland of color and drama. It also establishes visual themes that Frazetta would employ throughout his career. For example, the placement of mushrooms to give a fantastic "touch" to the scene is seen many times in Frazetta's works. As is typical in great works from great masters, the viewer can literally spend hours unlocking all the secrets in this composition. Rarely do works of this outstanding quality come on the market. Nicely framed and matted, the piece measures approximately 18" x 24" overall, with an image area of approximately 10" x 16.25". It is accompanied by a copy of the paperback for which it was painted. The painting is in excellent condition and has recently been professionally and expertly conserved with its backing de-acidified to prevent fading."

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