Well known for his film posters in the 1970’s and 80’s, illustrator Richard Amsel started his career early when he won a contest to illustrate the poster for Barbara Streisand’s Hello Dolly while he was still a student at the Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts) here in Philadelphia.
He soon translated that early success into a series of album covers, magazine ads, and movie posters. Many of the latter are well remembered, including posters for Chinatown, Papillon, The Shootist, Murder on the Orient Express and his iconic poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark (Left, top; see this interview with Drew Struzan, who did the other famous Raiders poster).
Amsel’s oeuvre included great posters for great movies as well as great posters for not-so great movies. His poster for the 1980 heavy-handed camp bomb Flash Gordon, for example, was the best thing about the movie (image at left, bottom).
Though he had a recognizable style, Amsel varied his approach to suit his subject matter, often evoking period styles of art or even paying homage to classic illustrators, as in his nod to J.C. Leyendecker in his poster for The Sting (left, middle).
Amsel also had a long run doing cover illustrations for TV Guide, with memorable portraits of both movie and television personalities. Amsel was one of the most popular of the illustrators who did TV Guide covers, creating over 40 of them during his career.
There is a new exhibit of Amsel’s work, Richard Amsel: A Retrospective, opening at the University of the Arts’ Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia on April 15, and running to May 14, 2009.
The exhibit, featuring over 50 pieces, is from a collection donated to the school by Dorian Hannaway, director of Late Night Programming at CBS television for 15 years, and a close friend of the artist.