October 31, 2017

Basil Gogos, 1929-2017

Halloween is here. This year, I celebrate the life and and career of artist Basil Gogos who passed away on September 13.  

“Basil single-handedly invented the painted monster magazine cover, turning images coined for exploitation into the finest of fine art - feral poses and bestial, skeletal faces splashed with all the colors of fright and passion.”
   Tim Lucas, VideoWatchBlog.

My first Famous Monsters of Filmland was #12, June ’61, the CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF cover. That issue ignited my passion for classic horror and it was Gogos’ painting, howling at me from a magazine stand, that alerted me and invited me in. Growing up, I would spend hours studying his kinetic covers. Focus up close on details and it was abstract art: A fearless splash of vibrant colors and bold, energetic strokes. Only when you pulled back and looked at the whole thing did all the pieces somehow fit together as a recognizable portrait. But Gogo’s supercharged paintings weren’t mere portraits, they were interpretations. His work captured the subjects more vividly than any photograph could, and made them come alive.

“Make no mistake: From Basil Gogos emerged the Aurora models. From Basil Gogos came a new generation of artists and filmmakers. And from Basil Gogos crackled a vision that would forever define the icons that the Universal monsters are today.”
— David Colton, webmaster at The Classic Horror Filmboard.

Gogos painted Frankenstein Monsters — and Bride — to grace a number of covers. Here, at top, is a sombre portrait for FM’s special issue commemorating Boris Karloff’s death in 1969. Below is a 1971 polychromatic rendition of Christopher Lee’s patchwork Monster from Curse of Frankenstein.

I met Basil Gogos two years ago at Monsterpalooza in Burbank. Late one evening, he joined a group of us sitting with Sara Karloff in a hotel restaurant. He sat right next to me and we shook hands. I told him I was a fan of his. I refrained from telling him how very much he meant to me, I could have gone on and on, but I figured it’s something he’d heard over and over again. It was late, he looked tired, and I just said “I’m a fan”, he smiled, and that’s all. And it was fine just like that.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Sometimes, simple acknowledgment is enough. He was great, such a legacy of art to leave behind.

🎃 Happy Halloween! 🎃


Gogos’ paintings on the covers of FM made our beloved monsters look better than they ever had. And yet there were not realistic renderings, but impressionist portraits. He made our dreams and memories of those black and white horror movies stronger and more vivid with his subjective, exaggerated use of color. These monsters were destroyed and resurrected many times over in theaters and on TV screens through the years but it was the masterful brush strokes of Basil Gogos that truly gave them immortality.