Thursday, October 01, 2015

News Chronicle

'News Chronicle' featured a full page of Searle cartoons every week during the early fifties. He lampooned British life; humorous takes on everyday situations, events in and around London, art exhibitions and made portraits of notable people of the era and also people 'on the street'.

'HRH the Queen returns from a voyage'

'News Chronicle Saturday: issue Sept 19th
An original illustration for Merry England, etc., Perpetua Books, London, 1956, pp.3,7 and 82

An original illustration for News Chronicle, London, Issue 9, October 1954
Man's best friend "Dog racing/results up yet?/... and don't point/-its rude."

'Tulip Time'
An Illustration for the The News Chronicle, London, 22 May 1954 and Merry England, Etc. Perpetua Books, London 1956, pp. 12, 13 & 14

An original illustration for News Chronicle, 23 August 1954.
Holidays: Home from home: 'The Guest Book'

An original illustration for News Chronicle, London, 19 June 1954.
'Battersea fun fair'

'Burlington House' December 1953 The Royal Academy. Searle recycled the gag above with an object falling out of a painted canvas several times over his career. It deserves a post of its own.

'Summer' June 1954

'Sculpture Exhibition in Holland Park'  
News Chronicle: Saturday Sketch Book, London, 29 May 1954. 
In these sketches for the above that Searle probably made on site we see the artist searching for the 'gag'.


'Antique Dealer's Fair' 
News Chronicle, Saturday Sketchbook, 12 June 1954. 

Searle also made portraits of London's citizens, known and unknown,  for the newspaper. They would later be collected in 'Looking at London and People Worth Meeting (1953).
 'Portrait of Ian MacKay'; pen and brown ink, signed, dated 1952, bears inscription on the mount News Chronicle Searle WSS Feature
Roland Emett at the Festival of Britain News Chronicle, published, London, 12 June 1952 
'People Worth Meeting'.
Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens
News Chronicle, London Issue, 30 October 1952.

'Portobello Rd. Market'

(Many of the images here are courtesy of the Chris Beetles Gallery, London)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Coming Home

As a complimentary exhibit to that at the Fitzwilliam 'Coming Home: Ronald Searle and Cambridge School of Art', curated by Professor Martin Salisbury, will run concurrently at Anglia Ruskin University's Ruskin Gallery from 13 October - 19 November

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Thin Man

Writer Patrick Campbell was one of Searle's earliest collaborators and the alter ego they developed for a series of stories that ran in Lilliput magazine marked the debut of the fully formed 'thin man' figure that represented the artist's trademark style.  As I wrote in the post on 'London Opinion' where we see the earliest incarnation of the proto 'thin man' by the early 50s Searle's style had matured and the cartoon version of Campbell was fully formed.

It has been observed that Searle's predilection for drawing his cartoon characters with thin, gangly limbs was influenced by his time starved half to death with his comrades as prisoners of the Japanese during WWII. Their emaciated, skeletal bodies would have undoubtably marked the young artist but I wonder if that explanation might be too obvious. Skinny cartoon characters are inately funny, as are chubby characters or old or infantile, Searle found the humour in all body types as in the illustration below. 

'Three Years At The Opera' by Patrick Campbell. From Lilliput (1949)

It might be that Searle was more influenced by the fact that he happened to work in his formative partnerships with two very tall and skinny authors. Searle spent much of the forties drawing in dark theatres on preview night as caricaturist for Punch magazine. Seated next to him with his knees under his chin would be the magazine's theatre critic Eric Keown, renowned for his height (6'7) and gangliness. (Read this post for more on Punch theatre and Keown)

Dublin-born Campbell was six foot five and made his name writing for the Irish Times despite being landed gentry.

'A Long Drink of Cold Water' (1949) collected stories from Lilliput magazine, 'A Short Trot With A Cultured Mind' (1950), 'An Irishman's Diary' (1950) reprinting material from the Irish Times, 'Life In Thin Slices' (1951) original material plus more collected from Lilliput

Original cover art for 'Life in Thin Slices'

The reproduction of artwork in 'Lilliput' magazine was never great. In these shots taken from the original drawings for a Campbell & Searle Lilliput story we can observe the nuanced tonal work in the ink wash and Searle's lively penmanship.

Note the rain achieved by scratching back into the surface of the art board

Searle worked hard to find inventive and interesting compositions. This one staged from behind the main character is striking; the two characters lost in a jumble of legs but connected by the minimal yellow tint.

Searle's 'thin man' would evolve into the character Mr. Lemonhart the mascot of Lamb's Navy Rum. The tall, gangly gent in the yellow suit would feature in dozens of advertisements, posters, billboards and commercials for which Searle designed the artwork. A comprehensive collection of 'Lemonhart' images can be viewed here

Friday, September 11, 2015

Florida exhibition

The Mary Alice Fortin Children’s Art Gallery in Palm beach, Florida is exhibiting Searle's illustrations for Robert Forbes' childrens' books.  (Organized by The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida).  More info here

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


My friend and fellow Searle enthusiast Uli Meyer has spotted a poor Searle copy coming up for auction at Bonhams The established auction houses never believe us when we point out forgeries. 'Who are you to comment' one well known small gallery near the British Museum once snootily told me when I pointed out they were selling a Searle copy. Our opinions just weren't accepted as we weren't qualified to comment in their estimation. I can see they might take the challenge as an affront to their informed expertise. I used to forward links to Ronald and he would chase them up himself but now he's gone there's no one to protect the casual buyer. Uli writes:

'The image on the right is a terrible tracing of a drawing by Ronald Searle, on the left. Incredibly this embarrassing, awful fake is currently up for auction at the famous auction house Bonhams. I made them aware that the drawing is a fake and a terrible one at that and sent them the image of the original. The 'expert' I spoke to still isn't sure and incredibly, it is still up for sale. How can a reputable auction house employ so called experts that can't tell that this atrocity is not a drawing by one of the most influential graphic artists of the 20th century. It boggles my mind.'

There appears to be an amateur forger in the UK who intermittently slips poor copies onto the market- always at a different auctioneers. I've tackled this issue before where the eBay seller was challenged in the comments section and justifies the sale with the disclaimer 'after Ronald Searle'. Read it here

**UPDATE** the piece has been removed from the sale

Monday, August 24, 2015

Searle exhibition 2015

Searle's hometown Cambridge is finally celebrating their famous son. From the Fitzwilliam museum website:

Ronald Searle: ‘Obsessed with drawing’

Born in Cambridge, Searle is best known as the inventor of the fictional girls’ school St. Trinian’s (1948) and for his collaborations on Geoffrey Willans’ Molesworth series (1953- 58). However, as this exhibition shows, he had a long and productive career across a range of different genres. Searle worked as a war artist, but also made drawings for book and magazine illustration, travel reportage, theatre, film, medals and political caricature. Fuelled by visits to the Fitzwilliam Museum during his formative years, he had keen sense of his own place in the history of caricature - a selection of work by the caricaturists he most admired will be on display in a complementary exhibition in the Charrington Print Room (16).
This exhibition is drawn from a recent gift of the artist’s work, generously presented to the Museum by his children in 2014.
An associated exhibition Coming Home: Ronald Searle and Cambridge School of Art, curated by Professor Martin Salisbury, will run concurrently at Anglia Ruskin University's Ruskin Galleryfrom 13 October - 19 November.
Image: Ronald Searle (1920-2011), Molesworth, 1999 (detail) © The Estate of Ronald Searle
Tue 13 October 2015 to Sun 31 January 2016

Thanks to Anita O'Brien at London's Cartoon Museum


An interesting find on the Instagram account of user Ben Hausmann-Prior. Three Searle originals. He tells me 'They where originally commissioned for a carnival lantern in Basel Switzerland but were later cropped to fit frame size.'

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Life's a beach

Before the summer ends let's visit Brighton with Searle and Holiday magazine. . .

The original cropped up on eBay a few years back but it had some tear damage

I've posted these wonderful, full colour images from 'Lilliput' magazine (1947) before but they're worth looking at in this context.

This Punch cover is a decade later 14th August 1957

This was a short article in 'Holiday' magazine on Russian resort Yalta

 The Yalta image above is echoed in Searle's depiction of American beach scenes such as this Florida beach again for 'Holiday' magazine.

Searle's Hawaii beach scenes are incredible

Some just go to the beach to get away from it all