A New Book Makes the Case That Fantasy Art Is America’s Least Understood Fine-Art Form—See the Wild Images Here
Dragons, sexy maidens, and epic sword fights are getting the fine-art treatment in Masterpieces of Fantasy Art, Taschen’s new 532-page illustrated tome celebrating the genre. At once realistic and other worldly, fantasy art is an escapist delight made for 2020, transporting the viewer into unique, dramatic landscapes that exist only in the artist’s imagination.
Lest you think fantasy art is nothing more than a lightweight endeavor, the massive volume weighs a hefty 16 pounds. Tracing the evolution of the genre from 1400 to the present, it showcases the works of Old Masters Jan Van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch as well as contemporary heavy-hitters like H.R. Giger, Frank Frazetta, and Boris Vallejo.
“Since fantasy art is largely created as work for hire, no matter how talented the artist,” author Dian Hanson writes, “it has always been accessible, displayed prominently on the newsstand, to its advantage and curse.”
The genre’s predilection for provocative, sexualized scenes has also hurt its credibility among the art-world cognoscenti—not to mention that the mass-produced fantasy books were literally printed on cheap pulp paper in the 20th century.
Hanson amassed more than 100 superlative examples of this oft-misunderstood form for the book. The compilation speaks to the genre’s considerable appeal—which has also translated into impressive art-market success. Original Frazetta oil paintings have sold for as much as $5.4 million.
The book’s cover image, Frazetta’s Princess of Mars (1970), fetched $1.2 million at Dallas’s Heritage Auctions in September. The artist’s record at auction is $5.4 million, set last year at Heritage in Chicago for Egyptian Queen (1969), according to the Artnet Price Database. (It’s the worlds most expensive piece of original comic book art.)
“With the rise of online auction houses, nontraditional collectors are tempted to buy what they want, rather than what a gallerist advises, letting the old medial orbitofrontal cortex do the choosing,” Hanson writes. “And once frazetta art turn those pleasure centers loose, let’s face it: Most of us are going to go with those colorful, dynamic works of fantasy that make us all feel so much better.”
See more artwork from the book below.