Monday, 26 April 2010

SEARLEY FOLK

I am currently putting the finishing touches to my upcoming talk on the illustrations of Ronald Searle which I will be giving at The Cartoon Museum this Wednesday at 6.30 pm, and I have once again been struck not just by Searle's extraordinary versatility but by his infallible knack for capturing people we have all seen walking down the street, sitting in a train or eating at nearby restaurant table.

Sometimes his portrayals are highly naturalistic as in a series of illustrations he made to accompany articles by his first wife, Kaye Webb, for the News Chronicle and published in book-form in 1953 as Looking at London...

Ronald Searle - Looking at London (2)

Ronald Searle - Looking at London (1)

Searle subsequently adapted this reportage style to illustrate Punch pieces by the writer Alex Atkinson for a series of studies of Londoners published in 1958 as The Big City...

Ronald Searle - The Big City (1)

Ronald Searle - The Big City (2)

Other examples of his work can be seen moving closer towards caricature, while still retaining enough authenticity for us to recognise their innate truthfulness.

Here are a couple of examples from a series of articles by Geoffrey Corer (once again for Punch) that Searle illustrated and which were subsequently published in 1955 as Modern Types...

Ronald Searle - Modern Types (2)

Ronald Searle - Modern Types (1)

Finally, there are Searle's cartoon characters, such as the teachers of St Custard's in the books about Nigel Molesworth ("the goriller of 3b") which Searle created in collaboration with Geoffrey Willans: they are drawn to make us laugh, but experience tells us that they are also drawn from life...

Teachers (1)

Teachers (1)

Now, I must get back to that talk...

Images © Ronald Searle, uploaded from my flickr Photostream.

11 comments:

Andy J. Latham said...

He drew a nice range of styles didn't he?

I didn't even know there was a cartoon museum in this country! How did I not know about that?! I need to go there one day.

Suzanne said...

I'm with Andy... I thought Brussels had the only cartoon museum in the world!
I wish I could draw.

Brian Sibley said...

London's Cartoon Museum is a great little exhibition space just round the corner from the British Museum.

They have a fantastic permanent exhibit covering everything from political cartoons to comics and graphic novels. There are examples of work from Cruikshank, Gilray and Rowlandson to Trog, Scarfe and Steadman. With original art from some of our best-loved kids' comics and newspaper strips.

To see some examples of the work they hold visit their web-site and click on 'The Collection'.

Recent special exhibitions have included displays devoted to Pont, Heath Robinson, Emett (with many of his fantastical machines), Viz magazine, cartoons inspired by the premiership of Margaret Thatcher and, currently, the work of Ronald Searle with some wonderful examples of the artist's work (including a number of unpublished drawings) on loan from the man himself.

There is also a research library of 5,000 books and 6,000 comics.

Anyone interested in graphic art who finds themselves in London with an hour to spare should pay a visit. I'd be surprised it it wasn't the first of a number of return trips...

SharonM said...

It certainly does sound well worth a visit.

Hope all goes well tomorrow - I'm sure it will be a treat for the audience.

Matt J said...

Perhaps you could add the special colour portraits Searle made for the 'Heroes of our time' series in Punch as yet another facet of his ouvre?

Highly anticipating your talk this evening Brian- see you there.

Sheila said...

Thanks for a fascinating talk, Brian!

Good Dog said...

Brian,

That was an absolute treat. Roxy was sorry she didn't say goodbye before searching out the ladies room. We had a wonderful and entertaining evening, so thank you again.

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks, guys!

Bill Field said...

I am a huge Searle fan, I really am a bit surprised he isn't compared more often to the great Daumier, who's credited by some to have started the whole genre of political/commentary cartoons, there are many similarities...

Brian Sibley said...

You are quite right, Bill. It was not part of the remit of my talk, but I did some research into Daumier and found - both in his drawn caricatures and in his clay sculptures - a striking likeness to the physical characteristics of some of Searle's folk. It is hard not to think that Daumier was one of his early inspirations.

Bill Field said...

On my only visit to Boston, I was overwhelmed by the great and vast amount of truly great artwork there was among the museums and galleries. I saw a Searle exhibit and then elsewhere viewed a large collection of Daumier's works and then after that saw several works by Renoir, and really have have had the 3 joined in my mind's eye ever since, due to all of their similarities. We all favor our mentor's and idol's works in any art field- writing, fine art, music, etc... but making it our own, as Searle has done, well, to me- it's breathtaking.