|Chinatown movie poster|
Born on December 4, 1947, he was raised near Philadelphia, in the west side suburb of Ardmore where his parents owned a toy store. An artistic prodigy from early youth, he graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1965; he had been Art Editor of the school yearbook. He went on to attend the Philadelphia College of Art and stood out among his classmates there. Some have suggested that Amsel's precocious talent intimidated even his art instructors at the college.
While still in art school, he won a poster art contest for the Barbra Streisand film, Hello Dolly (1968). His career took off as a result... he was just 21 years old.
Richard Amsel went on to create a series of magazine ads for designer Oleg Cassini, illustrated movie posters and developed a long association with TV Guide magazine. In addition, he created the art for Time Magazine's Lily Tomlin cover in 1975.
|The Divine Miss M album cover|
His best known movie posters were for classic films of the '70s and '80s and include The Last Picture Show (1971), The Sting (1973), Chinatown (1974), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Shootist (1976) and, perhaps most famous of all, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
|Katharine Hepburn/TV Guide|
|Gone with the Wind/TV Guide|
Amsel's stylistic influences were diverse, among them - Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha and Walt Disney. An Associated Press reporter of the time observed that his "portraits pay homage to the nostalgia of old Hollywood, often through the groovy lens of the Age of Aquarius, while still managing to look contemporary..." About his own work, Amsel said, "I'm interested in uncovering relationships between the past and present and in discovering how things have changed and grown. I don't see any point in copying the past, but I think the elements of the past can be taken to another realm."
As I was preparing to post this piece about Richard Amsel, I realized its timeliness - December is AIDS Awareness Month.