LEGENDARY ARTIST PRODUCED ACRYLIC ON BOARDS FOR 1995 VIDEO RELEASES OF POP-CULTURE CLASSICS
John Alvin created the images that promoted some of Hollywood’s greatest movies.
Blade Runner, Predator, Blazing Saddles, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Beauty and the Beast, Gremlins, Batman Returns, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Goonies, Jurassic Park. Posters for all of these movies – and more – featured art by Alvin. His posters routinely make lists of the “Best Movie Posters of All Time.”
The artist “carved a niche for himself in Hollywood as the creator of evocative movie posters that drew generations of viewers into theaters,” the Los Angeles Times wrote when the native of Massachusetts passed away in 2008. “There was a reason why The Lion King did the numbers that it did,” Walt Disney Pictures executive John Sabel told the Times. “There was a reason why Hunchback [of Notre Dame] became a big success. It’s because of the images that were produced, and a lot of those were John Alvin’s paintings.”
Three original paintings Alvin created for the 1995 international video releases of the original Star Wars trilogy are being offered at Heritage’s upcoming illustration art auction. Each piece is expected to realize at least $20,000.
“Alvin, whose evocative style became a mainstay in the industry, is known best for his work with Disney, but over the course of his career, he produced posters for all of the major film studios,” says Heritage illustration art consignment director Meagen McMillan. “The original Star Wars trilogy is a quintessential epic that has won the hearts of multiple generations. These illustrations for the 1995 Star Wars videocassette releases are pieces of Hollywood and science-fiction history.”
The opportunity that launched Alvin’s career came after he graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1971, the Times reports. Alvin was working at an animation studio when a friend invited him to work on a poster for Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, released in 1974. “Mel Brooks liked it,” Alvin told the Santa Fe New Mexican in 2007. “I didn’t look for work for about 15 years after that; it came to me. I just kept getting calls from strangers who asked, ‘Are you the guy who did so-and-so film?’”
Alvin’s movie poster art is among the most iconic of the last 40 years, notes the book The Art of John Alvin (Titan Books, 2014) by Andrea Alvin. He is “one of the 20th century’s great artist/illustrators.” His poster for the 1974 musical horror comedy Phantom of the Paradise was selected by the National Collection of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Modern Art to be included in “Images of an Era (1945-1975),” a collection of posters that toured Europe as part of the U.S. bicentennial.
His work was distinctive enough to give birth to an adjective, “Alvinesque,” his longtime friend and colleague Federico Tio told the Los Angeles Times. “John always brought this magical, almost romantic quality to his work,” Tio told the paper. “His sense of light and capturing a moment was spectacular. … Not only was he a great illustrator, he was a great thinker. He was so passionate about his craft.”
This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.