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Kelly Freas

Frank Kelly Freas
Kelly Freas on his 82nd birthday (2004)
Born Frank Kelly Freas
(1922-08-27)27 August 1922[1]
Hornell, New York, USA
Died 2 January 2005(2005-01-02) (aged 82)
West Hills, California, USA
Pen name Kelly Freas (occasional)
Occupation Artist, illustrator
Nationality American
Period c. 1950–2004[2]
Genres Fantasy, science fiction

Frank Kelly Freas (27 August 1922 – 2 January 2005) was an American science fiction and fantasy artist with a career spanning more than 50 years. He was known as the "Dean of Science Fiction Artists" and he was the second artist inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.[3]

Early life, education, and personal life

Born in Hornell, New York, Freas (pronounced like "freeze") was the son of two photographers, and was raised in Canada.[4] He was educated at Lafayette High School in Buffalo, where he received training from long-time art teacher Elizabeth Weiffenbach. He entered the United States Army Air Forces right out of high school (Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada). He flew as camera man for reconnaissance in the South Pacific and painted bomber noses during World War II. He then worked for Curtis-Wright for a brief period, then went to study at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and began to work in advertising. He married Pauline (Polly) Bussard in 1952; they had two children, Jacqui and Jerry. Polly died of cancer in January 1987. In 1988 he married (and is survived by) Dr. Laura Brodian.


The fantasy magazine Weird Tales published the first cover art by Freas on its November 1950 issue: "The Piper" illustrating "The Third Shadow" by H. Russell Wakefield. His second was a year later in the same magazine, followed by several Planet Stories or Weird Tales covers and interior illustrations for three Gnome Press books in 1952.[2] With his illustrating career underway, he continued to devise unique and imaginative concepts for other fantasy and science fiction magazines of that period. In a field where airbrushing is common practice, paintings by Freas are notable for his use of bold brush strokes, and a study of his work reveals his experimentation with a wide variety of tools and techniques.

Over the next five decades, he created covers for hundreds of books and magazines (and much more interior artwork), notably Astounding Science Fiction both before and after its title change to Analog—indeed, from 1953 to 2003.[2] He started at Mad magazine in February 1957 and by July 1958 was the magazine's new cover artist; he painted most of its covers until October 1962 (featuring the iconic character, Alfred E. Neuman).[4][5] He also created cover illustrations for DAW, Signet, Ballantine Books, Avon, all 58 Laser Books (which are now collectors' items), and over 90 covers for Ace books alone. He was editor and artist for the first ten Starblaze books. He was a participant in one of the all-time great literary hoaxes, I, Libertine (Ballantine Books, 1956), along with Jean Shepherd, Ian Ballantine and Theodore Sturgeon, incorporating several hidden jokes and references into his cover painting for that book. That same year he drew cartoon illustrations for Bernard Shir-Cliff's The Wild Reader, also for Ballantine.

Freas was commissioned to paint the Skylab I insignia design and posters promoting the space program (used by NASA and now hanging in the Smithsonian Institution);[4] pinup girls on bombers while in the United States Army Air Forces; comic book covers; the covers of the GURPS worldbooks Lensman and Planet Krishna; and many others, such as more than 500 saints' portraits for the Franciscans executed simultaneously with his portraits of Alfred E. Neuman ("What? Me Worry?") for Mad. He was very active in gaming and medical illustration. His cover of Queen's album News of the World (1977) was a pastiche of his much-admired sad robot cover illustrating Tom Godwin's "The Gulf Between" for Astounding Science Fiction (October 1953).[5][6]

Freas published several collections of his art, frequently gave presentations, and his work appeared in numerous exhibitions. Among many he won the inaugural Hugo Award for Best Artist in 1955 and the next three conferred—in 1956, 1958, and 1959 under different names.[7] With six more in 1970 and 1972–76 he became the first person to receive any ten Hugo awards (he was nominated 20 times). No other artist in science fiction has consistently matched his record. His smooth and luminous images, amiable aliens and sexy women have become part of today's science fiction visual language.

Freas was twice a Guest of Honor at Worldcon, at Chicon IV in 1982 and at Torcon 3 in 2003, although a fall suffered shortly before the latter convention precluded him from attending.

He died in West Hills, California and is buried in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth. Both communities are suburbs of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley.


Freas's achievements include the Doctor of Arts, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, December 2003. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2006, the second artist after Chesley Bonestell.[3][8]

  • Hugo Awards (11): Hugo Award for Best Artist 1955–56, 1958–59, 1970, 1972–76; fifty-year Retrospective Hugo, 2001 (for 1950 work)[7]
  • Locus Awards (4), 1972–75, best artist[7]
  • Frank R. Paul Award, 1977
  • Inkpot Award, 1979
  • Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (the Skylark), 1981[7]
  • Rova Award, 1981
  • Lensman Award, 1982
  • Phoenix Award, 1982
  • Los Angeles Science Fiction Society Service Award, 1983
  • Neographics Award, 1985
  • Daedalos Life Achievement Award, 1987
  • Art Teacher Emeritus Award, 1988
  • Best Professional, Media, International Fantasy Expo, 1989
  • Chesley Awards (3): 1990 with Laura Freas, best 1989 cover illustration; 1994, artistic achievement; 2001, artistic achievement[7]
  • Numerous Science Fiction Art Show Awards
  • National Association of Trade and Technical Schools National Hall of Fame, 1991
  • AnLab (Analog magazine) Reader Polls, Best Cover, 1992 and 2001[7]

See also



Further reading

  • Freas, Frank Kelly. Frank Kelly Freas: The Art of Science Fiction. Norfolk, Virginia: Donning, 1977.

External links

  • (
  • Kelly Freas tribute site
  • Find a Grave
Biography and criticism
  • Frank Kelly Freas obituary in The Guardian
Bibliography and works
  • Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Magazine
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Copy archived 2005-04-05)
  • Library of Congress Authorities — with 17 catalog records

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