Remarkably, Amsel's creative output dominated the full spectrum of entertainment -- music was no exception. Amsel possessed a special affinity for capturing large personalities in his work, as well as great sensitivity in drawing women. And no women were larger personalities than his most frequent subjects: Liza Minelli, Lily Tomlin, Barbra Streisand, and -- of course -- Bette Midler. 

 

What many people don't realize is that Amsel came to know a number of his subjects personally, and forged friendships as well as professional relationships. Often he sought out such figures. They, in turn, recognized the artist's talent and reciprocated their admiration.

 

As with all of Amsel's early work, it's challenging to find quality images that are of decent resolution, or of physical products that aren't damaged with age. 

Purlie
Purlie

Purlie 1970 Size & medium unknown Unusued poster concept for Broadway musical.

This is Helen O'Connell (detail)
This is Helen O'Connell (detail)

1972 12" vinyl double album cover for RCA Victor Records. (Front detail.) Acrylic & airbrush. Size unknown. Images courtesy of Scot Ryersson & Tony Hill.

This is Helen O'Connell
This is Helen O'Connell

1972 12" vinyl double album cover for RCA Victor Records. Acrylic & airbrush. Size unknown. Images courtesy of Scot Ryersson & Tony Hill.

This is Maurice Chevalier
This is Maurice Chevalier

1972 12" vinyl double album cover for RCA Victor Records. Acrylic & airbrush. Size unknown.

This is Bennie Goodman
This is Bennie Goodman

1972 12" vinyl double album cover for RCA Victor Records. Acrylic & airbrush. Size unknown.

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra

1972 Thanks to Randal Tolbert for the heads-up on this one: Richard Amsel's illustration of Frank Sinatra, featured on two different albums for RCA VICTOR: 1972's THIS LOVE OF MINE (pictured), and the 1976 Sinatra/Dorsey collection PURE GOLD.

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra

1972 Thanks to Randal Tolbert for the heads-up on this one: Richard Amsel's illustration of Frank Sinatra, featured on two different albums for RCA VICTOR: 1972's THIS LOVE OF MINE, and the 1976 Sinatra/Dorsey collection PURE GOLD (pictured).

Tommy (detail, "Narrator")
Tommy (detail, "Narrator")

Tommy (inner artwork of Pete Townsend as the narrator) 1972 Vinyl LP album cover for Ode Records with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Size and medium unknown. Amsel was one of several illustrators who contributed to this album. It won a Grammy for Best Album Package.

Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M
Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M

The Divine Miss M (2) 1972 Acrylic and colored pencils on board 15 x 14 1/2 in. Perhaps one of the most famous album covers of the 1970s -- simple, iconic, and unforgettable.

Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M
Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M

1972 Early concept sketch. Colored pencil on paper. 16 1/5 x 10 5/8 in.

Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M
Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M

1972 Early alternate concept sketch. Size unknown.

Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M
Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M

Ad promoting Midler's show.

Bette Midler
Bette Midler

1973 Final printed poster, 27 x 41 in. Smithsonia color photolithographic poster: 45 x 29 1/2 in. Amsel's iconic portrait of Bette Midler is part of The National Portrait Gallery in Washinton D.C. It was used for her 1973 and 1978 tours, and related album.

Bette Midler
Bette Midler

1973 Acrylic and ink on board 30 x 23 1/2 in.

Eddy Arnold: I Love How You Love Me
Eddy Arnold: I Love How You Love Me

1973 Size and medium unknown. One of Amsel's album covers for RCA. I found this by chance in a second hand store in Ventura, California, and had a friend take a picture of it with his camera phone!

John C. Attle
John C. Attle

John C. Attle 1973 Size and medium unknown. Special thanks to David Edward Byrd and David Layton for providing these images to me.

John C. Attle
John C. Attle

John C. Attle - Downstairs at the Upstairs 1973 Size and medium unknown. Special thanks to David Edward Byrd and David Layton for providing these images to me.

John C. Attle
John C. Attle

Date unknown. Amsel designed this poster from a photo by Ken Howard. Image provided by David Layton.

30 Greatest Hits/Operettas
30 Greatest Hits/Operettas

1974. Art for RCA's 2-LP release, 30 GREATEST HITS FROM THE WORLD'S GREATEST OPERETTAS. It features Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald from the MGM movie musical, ROSE MARIE. Thanks to fellow Amsel fans Randal Tolbert, Tim Dunleavy, and Luis Tomaz Pires for helping to identify this piece.

30 Greatest Hits/Operettas
30 Greatest Hits/Operettas

1974. Art for RCA's 2-LP release, 30 GREATEST HITS FROM THE WORLD'S GREATEST OPERETTAS. It features Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald from the MGM movie musical, ROSE MARIE. Thanks to fellow Amsel fans Randal Tolbert, Tim Dunleavy, and Luis Tomaz Pires for helping to identify this piece.

Body and Soul: Five Decades of Jazz
Body and Soul: Five Decades of Jazz

Body and Soul: Five Decades of Jazz Era Song Circa 1973? Vinyl trible album cover for Columbia Records. Pencil and mixed media. Size unknown. Special thanks to Jeff Crawford for this image.

Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue
Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue

1975 Oil on canvas 29 7/8 x 30 in. Dorian Hannaway kindly showed me the original painting, which hangs in her home. It was one of the few pieces Amsel painted in oils, and was apparently still drying when it was handed over for photographing.

Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue
Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue

1975 A beautiful, detailed pencil study for album cover.

Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue
Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue

1975 Original concept sketch.

Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue
Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue

Promotional poster.

Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue
Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Revue

Playbill cover

Songs for a New Depression
Songs for a New Depression

Bette Midler -- Songs for the New Depression 1976 Text from the original printed album has been digitally removed. Image courtesy of Darrell at Bette On the Boards. Used by permission.

Songs for a New Depression
Songs for a New Depression

Bette Midler -- Songs for the New Depression 1976 Detail from album insert.

Songs for a New Depression
Songs for a New Depression

Bette Midler -- Songs for the New Depression 1976 Detail from album insert.

FormerlytheHarlettes
FormerlytheHarlettes

1977 Final art before name change. Colored pencil, acrylics, watercolors, and gouache on paper. 21 5/8 x 16 in.

Formerly of the Harlettes
Formerly of the Harlettes

Sharon Redd • Ula Hedwig • Charlotte Crossley - Formerly Of The Harlettes 1978, CBS Records. Kindly provided by Charlo Crossley Fortier.

Love Will Turn You Around
Love Will Turn You Around

Kenny Rogers: Love Will Turn You Around 1982 Final album cover. The enduring charm of Amsel's work is that while he was quite capable of drawing faces with photorealistic accuracy, he also gave them a more personal, illustrative quality. This portrait of Kenny Rogers is a good example.

Love Will Turn You Around
Love Will Turn You Around

Kenny Rogers: Love Will Turn You Around 1982 Acrylic, watercolor, pastels and pencils on board 14 x 14 in. Original art.

The Mozart Collection
The Mozart Collection

1984 Acrylic, watercolor, pastels and pencils on board Size unknown. I came across this album cover art on Amazon almost by chance, but vaguely remember seeing it on prominent display in music stores back when I was a child. Amsel did the cover art for Time Life Music's THE MOZART COLLECTION, released in 1984 -- no doubt fueled by the enormous success of the film AMADEUS at the time. To my knowledge, this is Amsel's last known album cover.