4:30 pm EDT, August 26, 2014

‘The Art of John Alvin’ book review: A terrific look at one of Hollywood’s premiere poster artists

The Art of John Alvin is being released today. Is it worth picking up?

the art of john alvin book

“Somehow, John was able to capture the emotion of an entire movie in a single image,” Jeffrey Katzenberg writes in the forward of The Art of John Alvin.

Katzenberg states that Alvin was as important as any artist in the movie poster business, and he argues that Alvin’s art is a huge reason that Disney animated movies became more than “just for kids.”

The Art of John Alvin is being released today. Written by his wife Andrea Alvin, this book is a collection of some of his finest works and great information on their makings. “Mention a movie, such as Blazing Saddles, that opened with a John Alvin poster and people can vividly describe the image on detail,” Andrea writes of her husband’s incredible work.

The book begins by looking at Alvin’s first poster, the famous Blazing Saddles poster. It helped Blazing Saddles become instantly iconic. It’s not often that a movie poster or cover will never undergo any changes, but all DVD and Blu-ray copies of Mel Brooks’ classic film still contain Alvin’s iconic art. Not only did the poster kick off Alvin’s brilliant career, but it helped strengthen Mel Brooks’ career too. Alvin was immediately hired to do the poster for Brooks’ next film, and his Young Frankenstein poster is just as iconic.

One of the most interesting sections of the book is the section on Alvin’s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial poster. Andrea Alvin says John called this poster “the big one that didn’t get away,” and it’s easy to see why. The poster is undoubtedly one of the most iconic posters in film history. Alvin was involved in designing the poster from the very beginning; he was even around when the film was titled A Boy’s Life. Steven Spielberg told Alvin that his poster even influenced the way he filmed part of the movie.

There’s a lot more included in The Art of John Alvin, but to spoil the stories and sketches contained in the 160 large pages would be a crime. With Star Wars, Batman, Blade Runner, Darkman, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and so many more posters come great stories and early sketches that any movie lover will want to see for themselves.

The book doesn’t contain all of Alvin’s art by any means, but it does contain a lot of it. It’s great that the book is laid out chronologically. This allows us to see how Alvin grew throughout his career. One thing is certain: John Alvin was a true artist. It’s hard to overstate how influential he really was. He created posters that would define some of the greatest movies of all time, and it’s not at all a stretch to say that his work will have been the reason many young people of the time fell in love with movies. His work was the definition of iconic, and it’s a shame that he died at such an early age of 60 in 2008.

The Art of John Alvin is the perfect coffee table book. It’s completely accessible to however much a reader might want to put into it. For those who just want to pick up a book and look at some of the greatest art in film history, the book is perfect. The book is just as great for those who want more as the book is filled with tons of material on how and why certain posters came to be made. With little seen sketches that would eventually come posters, interesting stories from Andrea Alvin, and posters that were never released, The Art of John Alvin is a great book. The way it’s broken up into sections makes it great to pick up for five minutes or two hours.

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