The Art of Star Wars: The Force Behind the Most Iconic Image in the Cinematic Universe

You know the painting in this picture: a pulp paperback version of Luke and Leia before we ever met the characters, posed in front of a menacing Darth Vader helmet and Death Star. The painting is known as the Style B poster for Star Wars. Beside it stands Greg Hildebrandt, the artist who produced it along with his late brother Tim.  

Greg Hildebrandt, now pushing 80, remembers well the circumstances of that painting’s creation. “When the agency in New York called me at my studio about doing the job, they hadn’t seen the film,” Hildebrandt says, even though the movie’s release date was only a week away. “I asked them if they knew what it was about, and they said, ‘It’s some kind of science-fiction movie.’” The film already had a poster by Tom Jung, but Lucas wasn’t totally happy with it. “The guys at the agency told us that Lucas wanted it to be more comic-booky—that was our only direction. So, we went to the agency’s office in New York, were given some black-and-white film stills for reference, and then hopped a train back to my studio in Jersey. We were given 36 hours. On the train, we started asking ourselves, ‘What do they mean by comic-booky?’ They obviously didn’t literally mean a black-ink outline with flat colors, so we went for more of a pulp look and a broader approach in terms of color.”

All these years later, Hildebrandt has painted the image again, an original artwork that will go up for auction in November. Read about the artist, the origin, and the legacy of the Star Wars Style B painting at Collectors Weekly.

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