I've written about Art & Hue before on Steller as I've long admired the collections of graphic pop art prints that have featured themes as diverse as classical art, brutalism and midcentury chairs. So when I heard that @ArtAndHue was collaborating with Studiocanal on new and exclusive collections of art prints, the first as a homage to The Avengers, I asked Art & Hue's founder Odysseas Constantine about the inspiration behind the collaboration and how he came to select and create the new prints.
Why The Avengers?
"I discovered The Avengers in the 1980s when Channel 4 used to show the programme in the afternoons. As a child, I was transfixed by Mrs Peel and Steed and to me they defined 1960s-style. The 1960s was such an exciting time with great design and major cultural shifts and The Avengers played a global role in changing perceptions. While the 1960s was before my time, it's an era I feel drawn to - stylish and meaningful. Art & Hue's spiritual era is the 1960s, when pop art bloomed, and there's nothing that quite epitomises this period like The Avengers. Broadcast on ITV in the UK and ABC in the USA, the show defined the 1960s, running from 1961 to 1969, during which time The Avengers fought off Russian double-agents, dodgy politicians, and power-crazed businessmen across London – how times have changed!"
"The Avengers helped export British style and wit around the world making international stars of Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. With John Steed as the immaculate, quintessential English gentleman in bowler hat with umbrella, and with Mrs Peel as his smart, karate-chopping equal in catsuits, it was a thoroughly modern, stylish, and witty show that stands up to this day."
How did you come to collaborate with Studiocanal?
"Obtusely, the idea for contacting Studiocanal came about while I was watching a documentary about the Carry On films. In the documentary, they visited an archive of photographic images from the films and it occurred to me that perhaps The Avengers also had a similar archive somewhere. After some research to find out which company holds the copyright to The Avengers, I contacted Studiocanal with the idea of creating pop art based on the show and they've been supportive and enthusiastic about the project since day one and a dream to work with. Studiocanal have been very generous with their time and resources allowing Art & Hue to browse their extensive archive of publicity and production images to create the pop art collection. Their archive at Pinewood Studios is particularly impressive, with stacks of film cans, photographs, and posters in climate-controlled rooms."
When looking through Studiocanal’s library, how did you decide on which images to choose?
"There were many images that I hadn't ever seen before including the striking shots of Diana Rigg in a fashion shoot that I selected to use for the Triple Emma print - to me, her look in that shot is sheer 1960s perfection. I initially selected around 60 images to experiment with and then ruthlessly edited until the final 12 that make up the collection and which, I hope, capture the spirit of the iconic and cult TV show."
How did you choose the colour palette?
"There are 16 colours in the Art & Hue studio palette I like to work with and the Red & Aqua seemed to fit The Avengers perfectly. As the first season featuring Diana Rigg as Mrs Peel was in black and white, I added Black as a new 17th colour option for monochrome purists."
Why do you think The Avengers has enjoyed such lasting appeal?
"I think the appeal of The Avengers is multi-faceted, particularly the Mrs Peel era of episodes but the marvellous chemistry between the two lead actors is a major factor. Combining the unique talents of Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg into one TV show created a global phenomenon which exported Swinging Sixties London as well as British humour and style across the world."
"Secondly, it was ahead of its time in that Mrs Peel was portrayed as an equal to Steed, and on many occasions, even smarter than him. To Steed's credit, he was a true gentleman who didn't mind working alongside a woman as an equal, which was unusual for TV shows at the time. Throw into the mix surrealism, sci-fi elements, and a witty script (much of which was apparently written by the actors), and there's nothing as stylish, smart or witty to ensure that longevity."
"Mrs Peel was portrayed as an equal to Steed, and on many occasions, even smarter than him."
"To Steed's credit, he was a true gentleman who didn't mind working alongside a woman as an equal, which was unusual for TV shows at the time."
Do you have a favourite print from the collection?
"If I absolutely had to choose, I suppose my personal favourites are the Triple Emma and The Avengers prints, but they're all genuinely my favourites as I edited the collection down from 60 experiments to the final 12 I selected. The collection has been evenly well-received judging by the prints that people have ordered so far."
With thanks to Odysseas Constantine
All images by Art & Hue
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