Frank Kelly Freas

Frank Kelly Freas

Kelly Freas on his 82nd birthday (2004)
Born Frank Kelly Freas
(1922-08-27)August 27, 1922
Hornell, New York, U.S.
Died January 2, 2005(2005-01-02) (aged 82)
West Hills, California, U.S.
Resting place Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery
Pen name Kelly Freas (occasional)
Occupation Artist, illustrator
Nationality American
Period c. 1950–2004[1]
Genre Fantasy, science fiction
"The Piper", illustrating Wakefield's "The Third Shadow" for Weird Tales, was Freas's first magazine cover
Art by Freas for "Disqualified" by Charles L. Fontenay, If magazine, Sept. 1954.

Frank Kelly Freas (August 27, 1922 – January 2, 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.[2][lower-alpha 1]

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.[3] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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).[3][4] 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 illustrated the cover of Jean Shepherd, Ian Ballantine, and Theodore Sturgeon's literary hoax, I, Libertine (Ballantine Books, 1956). That same year he drew cartoon illustrations for Bernard Shir-Cliff's The Wild Reader.

Freas also painted insignia and posters for Skylab I;[3] 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 more than 500 saints' portraits for the Franciscans executed simultaneously with his portraits of Alfred E. Neuman for Mad.[5][6] 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 October 1953 cover illustration for Tom Godwin's "The Gulf Between" for Astounding Science Fiction.[4][7]

Freas published several collections of his art, frequently gave presentations, and his work appeared in numerous exhibitions. He was among several of the inaugural recipients of the Hugo Award for Best Artist in 1955 and was recipient under different names of the next three conferred in 1956, 1958, and 1959.[8][lower-alpha 2] With six more Hugo awards to his name (1970 and 1972–76), he became the first person to receive ten Hugo awards (he was nominated 20 times). No other artist in science fiction has consistently matched his record.

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.


Some of Kelly Freas's awards (2004)

Freas's achievements include the Doctor of Arts, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, December 2003.[9] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2006, the second artist after Chesley Bonestell.[2][10][lower-alpha 1]


  1. 1 2 After inducting 36 fantasy and science fiction writers and editors from 1996 to 2004, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame dropped "fantasy" and made non-literary contributors eligible. Chesley Bonestell inaugurated the "Art" category in 2005.
  2. There was no award for art on the 1957 WorldCon program. Thus in 1955–56 and 1958–59 Freas won the first four unified Hugo Awards for illustration, as the terminology changed from Artist to Outstanding Artist to Professional Artist. The only previous achievement awards at World Science Fiction Conventions recognized Interior and Cover illustration separately in 1953.[8]


  1. 1 2 3 Frank Kelly Freas at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved April 9, 2013. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. 1 2 ""Presenting the 2006 Hall of Fame Inductees"". Retrieved August 19, 2016.. Press release March 15, 2006. Science Fiction Museum ( Archived April 26, 2006. Retrieved 2013-04-09.
  3. 1 2 3 Martin, Douglas (January 5, 2005). "F. K. Freas, Who Drew the Devilish Face of Mad Magazine, Dies at 82". The New York Times.
  4. 1 2 Vincent, Mal (May 21, 2010). "Art fit for Queen", The Virginian-Pilot, p. E1. Convenience link.
  7. . Godwin, Tom. "The Gulf Between", Astounding Science Fiction, October 1953 (full text).
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Freas, Frank Kelly". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Art Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  9. Holland, Stephen (January 13, 2005). "Frank Kelly Freas". The Guardian. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  10. "Science Fiction Hall of Fame". The Cohenside. May 15, 2006. Retrieved March 21, 2013.

Further reading

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