The poster art of Richard Amsel


Hello Dolly (1969); The Sting (1973).
Murder on the Orient Express (1974); Barry Lyndon (1975).

Thanks are due for today’s post to Sebastiane who reminded me of the poster art that Richard Amsel produced through the Seventies up to the mid-Eighties. Together with Bob Peak, Amsel was a major exponent of the illustrated poster, a form that’s now completely vanished from cinema promotion in a sea of floating Photoshop heads and persistently lazy design. Amsel’s most famous piece in terms of success and visibility is probably his Raiders of the Lost Ark poster (and its variants) but I tend to prefer his work from the previous decade.

I collected film posters for a while and have one of Amsel’s Chinatown designs packed away somewhere. The Hello Dolly poster above was his first commission and must count as the first and only time a Spirograph was used (for the flowers) to create a design for a major Hollywood production. The Amsel page at American Art Archives notes that the poster for The Sting is a pastiche of the very popular (and gay) JC Leyendecker whose magazine and advertising art was contemporary with the film’s setting. This is exactly the kind of thing that can’t be done with ease today when the art is predominantly a product of digital techniques.

Amsel died in 1985, an early victim of the AIDS pandemic which possibly explains why there isn’t a site dedicated to his work as there is for Bob Peak. This page features a few examples of Amsel’s other work, however, including his instantly recognisable Divine Miss M album cover for Bette Midler. And there’s a small gallery of his posters at IMP.

Update: A retrospective article and marvellous gallery of Amsel’s work by Adam McDaniel

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bollywood posters
Lussuria, Invidia, Superbia
The poster art of Bob Peak
A premonition of Premonition
Perfume: the art of scent
Metropolis posters
Film noir posters

10 thoughts on “The poster art of Richard Amsel”

  1. Great work. I remember coveting the Barry Lindon poster when the movie first came out. I never could get it. Everyone who knew somebody working at the cinemas or even the guys who put the posters up in the street got there first!

  2. My pleasure, Sebastiane, it was just the sort of tip I like to follow up here.

    Nathalie: You can buy film posters at film fairs or from online dealers so may still be able to find a good copy of the Barry Lyndon one somewhere. I suspect it may be more expensive now than it once was as posters from the Seventies seem to be rising in price and Kubrick is a cult director. Amsel’s original poster was also replaced later with a simpler design by Jouineau Bourduge which means the first one is now less common.

    After years of searching I bought a copy of the poster for Herzog’s Nosferatu from an online dealer. Still don’t know who the artist was for that one; there’s a scribbled name but it’s difficult to make out.

  3. Thanks Sebastiane, and well-spotted with the poster art, the place I got mine from pre-dated that place and there was no information about the artists. I can now see that the artist’s full name is David Palladini and he’s also known as a Tarot artist which possibly explains why he was asked to produce that poster.

    I shouldn’t have looked at that site, I notice they have a lot of those great Polish posters for sale!

  4. Thanks for linking to my article about Amsel. I hope you all enjoy it.

    Important note: Amsel did NOT create the BARRY LYNDON poster, though it looks very much like his style. This has been confirmed by Dorian Hannaway, one of Amsel’s close friends as well as a personal authority of his work.

  5. Hi,
    I bought this art that was made by the Universal Studios art department.
    It is concept art for the 1975 Raquel Welch Sheena, Queen of the Jungle movie which was never made. 3 different pieces.

    It has an A on one page. Peter Greenwood thought it might be Amsel art or the “A” could mean style A.

    Would you be able to identify the artist?


  6. Hi Frank. That picture doesn’t look like the work of anyone I know but then I’m an aficionado, not an expert. It also doesn’t look immediately like an Amsel sketch to me, his rough work tended to have a lot more to it as you can see if you look at the Amsel site linked above. Adam McDaniel at that site would probably be the best person to ask.

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