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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

COLLECT: Original Art: "The Mystery of Agatha Christie"

The Mystery of Agatha Christie (2013) - Artist: Tom Adams

One of the most admired cover artists for Agatha Christie's books is Tom Adams. His first cover was for "A Murder is Announced" (1962) and his last traditional cover was for "Miss Marple's Final Cases" (1979). However, Tom Adams did create art for "The Greenshore Folly" (2014), the 2016 boxed set of "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" and "Curtain" (click here ), as well as a few other projects over the years, including the Sammer Gallery large edition paintings (click here).

One of the more unique pieces he created was created for inclusion in the ITV (UK) 'Perspectives' documentary "They Mystery of Agatha Christie" starring David Suchet. Produced by Testimony Films in Bristol, this documentary was first shown in the UK on Sunday, 17th March 2013, and later in the USA on PBS. It can be viewed in full on YouTube (click here).

Towards the end of this documentary David Suchet visits Tom Adams at his home in Cornwall to discuss their association with the world of Agatha Christie. The producers asked Tom Adams to create a painting that depicted various aspects of Christie's life. In the documentary Tom is seen apply touches to the painting and at the end of that segment it is profiled in full on screen. Consistent with the title of the documentary, Adams titled the artwork "The Mystery of Agatha Christie". The painting is a montage, a collection of smaller images put together to form a larger image. More formal and technical than a collage, Adams' montage brings together 27 distinct pictorial details in addition to the obvious almost life-size head of Agatha Christie. The painting is acrylic on board & measures 43cm x 37cm.

Challenge yourself! Identify all the images related to Christie's life.

Quiz Time: For those who would enjoy the challenge use the lettered guide to see how many of these images you can identify. All are either people, places or things that were part of Christie's life, or images previously used by Adams in cover art he created for various books over the years, plus one image he didn't use. The answers are at the foot of this article so you can check how well you did!

Tom Adams Uncovered: The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond: In 2015 HarperCollins published a wonderful book covering Tom Adams work over the decades. Written by Tom Adams and John Curran this book is a must have for any fan of Christie or Adams. An image of "The Mystery of Agatha Christie" is included in this book on page 232. It is on the shown with the only other pieces of art created by Adams that included a portrait of Christie. One, now known as "The Missing Portrait of Agatha Christie" commissioned by Collins in 1977 has since gone missing. The third was his cover for "The Greenshore Folly" (2014) which contained a very small portrait of Christie in the lower left. There may be others that don't come to mind so do let us know if we've forgotton one!

Value: As with all original art, there's only one. This piece is also unique in that it is a montage, contains a Christie portrait, and contains some many familiar images. It is more likely that you will find a limited edition image of one of his book covers for sale, though original art does appear every so often. When paintings were sold by the artist directly, recent prices in the last decade were generally in the £5,000 - £7,500 (UK) range, depending on the appeal of the image. The larger format Sammer Gallery (Spain) paintings had an original asking price equivalent to $28,000 (US) per picture, though discounts were likely extended. For private transactions, and since the artist's passing last year, prices are likely pay what you are willing, but it would be safe to estimate they are now certainly higher than these levels.

The pictures below can be scrolled through for a closer look at the montage of images.

The Answers:

A: Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard.

B: Greenway House, Devon.

C: Agatha's 'Bullnose' Morris Cowley.

D: Archie Christie, her first husband.

E: Agatha at the piano with Max Mallowan, her second husband.

F: Agatha and Max at the Battery, Greenway House.

G: Haytor, Dartmoor - across from the Moorland Hotel.

H: Comedy & Tragedy masks.

J: The Blue Train (image used on rear of US Pocketbook edition).

K: Death in the Clouds (image from the UK Fontana edition).

L: Sherlock Holmes "the one and only" and inspiration to Christie.

M: Miss Marple (Joan Hickson).

Ma: Murder at the Vicarage (image from the UK Fontana edition).

N: Tunisian Dagger - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (image from the UK Fontana edition).

O: Guns - They Do It With Mirrors (image from the UK Fontana edition).

P: Hercule Poirot (David Suchet)

R: Pestle & Mortar - The Moving Finger (image from the UK Fontana edition).

S: Young Agatha with her first dog, George Washington.

Sa: Peter, another dog and inspiration for 'Bob' in Dumb Witness.

T: Agatha's mother - Clara Miller.

U: Agatha's father - Frederick Miller.

V: One of Max's pots and an reference to the influence of archaeology in their lives.

W: Agatha's daughter and grandson - Rosalind & Mathew

X: Death's Head Hawk Moth - The Mysterious Mr. Quin (image from the UK Fontana edition).

Y: Harlequin - an image not used previously.

Z: Agatha's imaginary childhood friends - her kittens including Clover and Blackie.

Za: Picnic on the landing stage on the River Dart

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