The 1950′s was a time when interest in science fiction and fantasy flowered. Pulp science fiction magazines and inexpensively printed books became increasingly popular and along with the stories came an increased demand for illustration.
Frank Kelly Freas, who generally didn’t use his first name professionally (and whose last name is pronounced “freeze”), started in 1950 became one of the most prolific, popular and respected science fiction artists of the era. His wild, colorful, fantastic and wonderfully fun illustrations of robots, aliens, spaceships, strange landscapes and colorful characters delighted generations of science fiction fans.
In addition, Freas was a regular contributor to Mad magazine, creating numerous covers and interior illustrations, including wonderful parodies of Norman Rockwell style Saturday Evening Post covers. Although Will Elder drew the first drawing of what was to become Mad’s signature character, Alfred E. Neuman, it was Freas (and later Norman Mingo) who defined him.
He could move back and forth between “serious” illustration and humorous illustrations that were like painted cartoons. Freas also did medical illustration and album covers as well as painting the Skylab I insignia for NASA.
His official site contains links to merchandise, but a limited number of images, and doesn’t seem to have been updated since his death in 2005.
There is an illustrated biography on the Bud Plant Illustrated Books site, a gallery (in French), a gallery of some of his Mad covers and a listing of some of his work online on the Artcyclopedia site.