Salem House Press
Illustrator of the Week: Another Look at Richard Amsel
MAY 29, 2018
Amsel quickly found popularity within New York’s art scene, and his illustrations caught the attention of Barry Manilow, then a young singer/songwriter named who was working with Bette Midler, a newly emerging entertainer in cabaret clubs and piano bars. Manilow introduced the two, and it was quickly decided that Amsel should do the cover of her first Atlantic Records album. The cover, for The Divine Miss M proved to be one of the most ubiquitous of the year. More album covers and posters soon followed, as did a series of magazine ads for designer Oleg Cassini.
His movie posters commissions included some of the most important and popular films of the 1970s, including The Champ, Chinatown, Julia, The Last Picture Show, The Last Tycoon, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Muppet Movie, Murder on the Orient Express, Nashville, Papillon, The Shootist, and The Sting. (The latter’s poster design paid homage to the painting style of J. C. Leyendecker, evoking both his “Arrow Collar Man” and his covers for The Saturday Evening Post.)
Though brief, Amsel’s career was prolific. By the decade’s end his movie posters alone matched or exceeded the creative output of many of his contemporaries. His portrait of comedian Lily Tomlin was featured on the cover of Time, and is now housed in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. In keeping with the magazine’s stringent deadlines, Amsel’s illustration was created in only two or three days.
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