...has been the trademark on over five decades of scorching satirical cartoons and wildly (sometimes weirdly) startling illustrations.STEADman
In the 1960s, Ralph Steadman was one of the bad boys of a new school of irreverent cartooning that, shunned by the august British comic journal, Punch, found exhibition space for their visceral attacks on most things establishment (and pretty much everything phony, corrupt, unjust and hypocritical) in the pages of a ‘new weird paper’ entitled Private Eye such as this revisionist take on William Hogath's 18th Century engravings – 'Hogath '65: Taste in High Life 2' published in Eye in April 1965...
Regardless of his former status as l'enfant terrible, the artist is enjoying a retrospective exhibition at London's Cartoon Museum, STEADman@77, and is now rightly celebrated for his unfettered imagination and his fantastic draughtsmanship as displayed through relentlessly savage cartoons such as this 1969 double-denouncement of Richard Nixon and his flip-side (or back-side), Spiro Agnew...
The range of Steadman's work represented by the over 100 works in the Cartoon Museum's exhibition is staggering in its diversity of subject and medium from examples of his celebrated collaboration with Hunter S Thompson on that author's seminal Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...
...via his monumental interpretation of the life, times, trials and tribulations of Leonardo da Vinci in I, Leonardo (1983)...
...and his 1986 series of distorted Polaroid celebrity portraits, Paranoids...
...to his brutal and bloody 1995 vision of George Orwell's Animal Farm...
...his evocative wine-growing landscapes created for the wine merchants Oddbins...
...and his most recent work, Extinct Boids, published last year...
Regardless of what you may think you know about Steadman and how you perceive him as an artist, this exhibition will still manage to surprise you by the astonishing sweep of his talent.
You may have forgotten the Steadman who drew pithy little 'pocket cartoons' with uncompromising captions or the impeccable use of detail and hatching contrasted by startling areas of arctic white in his great political caricatures, such as that of US diplomat Henry Kissinger tiptoeing across a vista of eggshells which are cracking open to disgorge writhing vipers.
Contrariwise, if your recollections of Steadman are as the eviscerating political and social commentator – unafraid to shock or disgust in the interests of making a point – you may be surprised by the infectious humour of line with which he chronicled his expeditions into Lewis Carroll's dream-realms of Wonderland and Looking-glass World or the rich beauty and staggering concepts spread out across the pages of his deeply thought-provoking apologia for God, The Big I Am.
Above all, what emerges is an artist of passion –– and compassion: fulminating righteous indignation weighed and balanced against the redeeming effects of laughter and an unquenchable love of life...
The Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH.
Telephone: 0207 580 8155
Monday – Saturday: 10:30 – 17:30 including Bank Holidays
Sunday: 12.00 – 17.30
(Please note the museum will be closed on Monday 22nd July)
Adults - £5.50
Concessions - £4
Students with valid student ID - £3
Free to Under-18s, Art Fund Members and Friends of the Cartoon Museum (children 12 or under must be accompanied by an adult)
27 June 6:30-7:30 pm
ILLUSTRATIONS by STEADMAN: Wonderland, Treasure Island and Beyond
Writer and broadcaster BRIAN SIBLEY (who he?) celebrates Ralph Steadman's radical interpretations of classic texts.
4 July & 3 September 6:30-7:30 pm
PROUD TO BE WEIRRD
Cartoon Museum curator ANITA O'BRIEN looks at Ralph Steadman's life and work
Admission: £5, £4, £3
Book online, or by phone: 0207 580 8155
You can discover more about Ralph on his official website: www.ralphsteadman.com