One of the most iconic pieces of movie poster artwork of all time is the original art for Steven Spielberg’s horror classic Jaws, the work of an artist by the name of Roger Kastel.
Bloody Disgusting is sad to learn this week that Kastel, who also painted the equally iconic poster for The Empire Strikes Back, has passed away at the age of 91.
The legendary Jaws art, which has been parodied and ripped off countless times over the years, was originally created as new cover art for Peter Benchley’s novel. That paperback artwork was eventually purchased by Universal, who used it as the art for Spielberg’s movie.
Kastel recalled his process in the documentary The Shark Is Still Working, “I did a very rough sketch, and [the publisher] said ‘That’s great, just make the shark realistic and bigger. Make him very much bigger!’” Kastel of course obliged, whipping up a terrifying oil painting that was no doubt responsible for selling countless books and likely even more movie tickets.
Kastel’s painting is still to this day one of the most recognizable pieces of pop culture artwork, the art itself a major piece of merchandising for Universal and the enduring Jaws brand.
Kastel’s biography on his official website provides an overview of his incredible career: “Roger Kastel, a native of White Plains, New York, began his art career while still in high school, commuting into Manhattan to study at the famed Arts Students League. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Roger returned home and became a professional artist doing freelance work for various studios, as well as ad agencies throughout New York. Eager to hone his craft, Roger, after putting in a full day’s work doing storyboards, mechanicals and layouts, continued his education by returning to the Arts Students League in the evenings. While still a student Roger had his first paperback book cover published in the 1960’s by Pocket Books.
“All told, Roger estimates that he has done over a 1,000 illustrations for various publishers. By the 1970’s Roger Kastel hit full stride as an artist, becoming one of the most well respected illustrators in the business, working for every major publishing house in New York.”
Fellow movie poster legend Drew Struzan tweets today, “We lost another creative brother … Roger Kastel who gave us the iconic Jaws poster among other wonderful pieces of art. It saddens me. Could the lesson be to appreciate all the more our living creatives?”
We lost another creative brother … Roger Kastel who gave us the iconic “Jaws” poster among other wonderful pieces of art. It saddens me. Could the lesson be to appreciate all the more our living creatives? pic.twitter.com/I2p4lk5unP
— Drew Struzan (@DrewStruzan) November 15, 2023
Saddened to hear about the passing of ROGER KASTEL, the artist behind one of the most iconic images/posters of the movie and pop culture. Roger created the artwork as a cover for the paperback of Peter Benchley’s bestselling classic JAWS for Bantam Books in 1974. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/GHx66QmbNP
— Francesco Francavilla (@f_francavilla) November 15, 2023
Roger Kastel created two of the most iconic and beloved movie posters ever. JAWS brilliantly sold its powerhouse beauty/beast inciting incident with haunting purity, while EMPIRE lavishly captured the grand, romantic sweep of an old time epic. His art will endure forever. R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/UpDb4wk0X2
— (@Lauzirika) November 15, 2023