Tom Adams


Tom Adams (born 1926) is an illustrator most famous for his Agatha Christie paperback cover designs. First published in the sixties, seventies and eighties in the UK by Fontana and in the USA by Pocket Books, they have been reproduced throughout the world by many other publishers. He also designed a series of Raymond Chandler covers produced for Ballantine Books, New York.

Tom Adams has also produced some notable paintings for hardbacks, including covers for John Fowles' The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman. Also Patrick White'sThe Vivisector, David Storey's Saville (described by John Fowles as a "quite literal dream of a jacket"); Ghost Story by Peter Straub and a Daliesque cover for Kingsley Amis' (writing as Robert Markham) James Bond pastiche, Colonel Sun.


Born 1926 in Providence Rhode Island, USA into a family of architects and town planners. His grandfather, Dr. Thomas Adams, founder President of The Royal Town Planning Institute and an Associate Professor of City Planning at Harvard University. He was director of the Regional Plan for New York in the 1930s. Tom Adams trained at Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmiths College, London between 1946-50, graduating in Fine Art.

Between 1953-60 wrote and illustrated Regimental Histories for Eagle, and various features on natural history for Eagle, Girl and Swift published by Hulton Press. At this period in his life he lived in Trottiscliffe, the same Kentish village as Graham Sutherland, a friend and mentor in these early days.

In 1958 he founded Adams Design Associates with Anna and Andy Garnett and his architect brother, Peter. He produced large murals in the new medium of laminated plastic for various companies such as Airscrew Jicwood, Mitchell-Cotts, Aspro Nicholas, The Royal Bank of Scotland and The Chartered Bank.

In 1960 Adams Design Associates became DANAD Design Associates with a group which included the artist and designer, Barry Daniels, and the architects, Peter Adams and Colin Huntley. They were involved in designing furniture for Harrods, Libertys and Heals. In 1960 he was part of this group's exhibition at the Portal Gallery, London.

During this period Adams began a career as book cover illustrator notably for the early John Fowles' novels The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman, published by Cape, and the now famous paperback covers for Agatha Christie, published by Collins in UK and Simon and Schuster in USA. This period covered 1963-1975. A book on Agatha Christie cover paintings, Tom Adams' Agatha Christie Cover Story with commentary by Julian Symons and an introduction by John Fowles was published in 1981 by Dragons World. Other books illustrated by Tom Adams include Aquarial Fish by Keith Bannister (Trewin Copplestone Publishing) and The Great Detectives by Julian Symons published by Orbis.

Tom Adams has won various awards for illustration notably from The American Society of Illustrators, The American Art Directors Association and The Design and Art Directors Association, UK.

In 1967 Adams opened the Fulham Gallery which not only gave first exhibitions to some now well-known artists but was also, for several years, the centre of the late sixties phenomenon - the poetry print. In co-operation with Edward Lucie-Smith and Bernard Stone of Turret Press, Adams published and printed on his own press many editions with poets such as Christopher Logue, Adrian Henri, Brian Patten, John Fowles, Edward Lucie-Smith, Henri Chopin, Anthony Thwaite and C. Day-Lewis. With C. Day-Lewis, poet laureate and the artists Joseph Herman and John Piper, he produced the Investiture print for the Prince of Wales. Adams also designed posters for Mark Boyle's light shows - The Sensual Laboratory - which went on tour with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Soft Machine. His connection with the world of rock music continued when he met Lou Reed, an admirer of his Christie and Raymond Chandler covers, who asked him to design the cover for his first UK album. More recently Adams painted the cover album for "Iron Maiden - Greatest Hits".

Other Portrait commissions have included HRH Prince of Wales, Benjamin Britten (twice), William Plomer, Mary Potter, J.D. Curran, retiring head of ITA, Frederico Fellini for the Playboy organisation, Bud Flanagan, Richard Dimbleby, President Tubman of Liberia and Enid Blyton.

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