Great Paintings – Frazetta’s “Downward to the Earth”

This is Frank Frazetta’s cover for Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg:

Downward to the Earth

There are no beautiful women here, no mighty warriors facing menacing beasts, none of the images that are so typically associated with Frazetta’s work.  It is my very favorite Frazetta painting.

I do like paintings of women, warriors, and beasts, and I love the way Frazetta painted all of those things.  But, despite their absence here, I think this painting exemplifies more than any other the element of Frazetta’s work that really made it special.  Frazetta himself said of the painting, “This is very soupy, abstract to the point of barely being there.  But the boldness of the color and the looser technique actually stops you faster than if I had gone in and carefully rendered everything in minute detail.”  (Testament, p. 108).  That’s what makes Frazetta’s work so powerful.  It’s the visual silence, the emptiness that gives no real suggestion of detail, that makes the viewer a part of the painting.  The viewer’s mind takes the hints that Frazetta provides and starts to fill those spaces without even knowing it.  The creative process didn’t end when Frazetta put down his brush, and this ability to tug at the viewer’s own imagination is what keeps people coming back to his paintings.

Frazetta’s work inspires so many artists (including me), that we emulate his content (guilty), and sometimes even the details of his compositions and draftsmanship (not as guilty, I hope).  But what we should be trying to understand is his gift for knowing what to leave unsaid.