Sunday, August 18, 2019

Beauty and the Beast by Chris Achilleos

Beauty and the Beast 
by Chris Achilleos
Paper Tiger (UK) 1978

Every sci-fi fan and every stoner who lived during the 1970s was aware of this book. It was as indispensable as Bruce Pennington's Eschatus, Patrick Woodroffe's Mythopoeikon, or The Art of the Brother Hildebrandt, or any of the trade paperback collections of Frank Frazetta fantasy art you saw on the shelves of Waldenbooks.

I still remember when I first saw 'Beauty and the Beast': my younger brother's friend Mert brought it over with him one dreary Autumn night in '78 and we all agreed that this was outstanding art. Much too cool for Playboy, but just right for Heavy Metal (and Achilleos did indeed provide covers for that magazine).

Chris Achilleos was born on Cyprus of Greek ethnicity. After his father died while Achilleos was a child, his mother moved the family to London. Achilleos attended the Hornsey College of Art, and in the 1970s began a career in commercial art for UK publishers of science fiction and fantasy books, magazines, and record album covers.

Achilleos's skill with the airbrush gave his work a carefully crafted, 'clean' look that was much in demand as publishers began turning away from the more abstract and figurative styles of the New Wave era. 

'Beauty and the Beast' was one of the first books published by the Dean brothers under their Paper Tiger imprint, and one of the most successful. It's hard to imagine nowadays, where you can walk into Barnes and Noble and see a healthy selection of art books in the shelving of the sci-fi section, but back in '78 such things were rare.

These selections from 'Beauty and the Beast' should give you a good idea of how polished Achilleos's artwork was; these pieces could be mistaken for digitally produced compositions (which of course didn't exist in the seventies).

'Beauty and the Beast' features some of the artists' cheescake / softcore porn illustrations; more plentiful examples are provided in the followup volumes Sirens (also 1978) and Amazona (2004). Unlike 'Beauty and the Beast' these other compilations feature commentary text by the artist.

Copies of 'Beauty and the Beast' can be had for about $10 from your usual online retailers, so there's really no excuse for not having this book in your personal library if you are at all a fan of 70s pop culture, 70s sci-fi, 70s stoner art, and 70s fantasy art. And if you're not a fan of those things, but you have a deep nostalgia for that era, then that, too, is a good reason to get a copy.............

1 comment:

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I really loved that book. I ended up hunting down copies of the Raven novels based on the covers he did. In this case the art was better than the books it went with!