Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Research help

On the Searle trail: I'm trying to trace the family of Prof. Robert H Butman who taught at Haverford College between the mid 50s to the 1980s. I found his obituary with family members but I'm stuck there unable to find them. Anybody experienced at tracking descendants? I'm hoping to find his son Christopher John James .

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lilliput pt.1

Lilliput magazine was a popular, pocket sized magazine of the 1940s-50s. Searle's work for the magazine fell into two styles; the broad cartoons of St. Trinians and the Patrick Campbell series; and more naturalistic illustrations accompanying short stories.

March 1947

'The Place Where it Happened'
A Report by Honor Tracy
Lilliput magazine May 1949

'The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag'
A Short Story byJim Corbett
Lilliput magazine April-May 1951

'All Correct, Sir
A Short Story by Bill Naughton
Lilliput magazine May-June 1951

'Maisie was a Lady
A Short Story by Paul Vincent Carroll
Lilliput magazine June-July 1951

'Honesty's A Jewel'
A Short Story by Roderick Milton
Lilliput magazine Nov-Dec 1951

Searle only illustrated two covers for the magazine as far as I know.

Many of Searle's contemporaries worked for the magazine too; James Fitton, Anton, Walter Trier, Gerald Hoffnung et al. and it was well known as a compendium of the best of British illustration in the 1950s. Even the Disney animators were familiar with it and an hommage found its way into 'One Hundred & One Dalmations' (1961), perhaps a tacit admission from a film which stylized its art direction directly after Searle's work.

Searle's artwork was so ubiquitous during this era that even in an issue absent of Searle's editorial illustrations there would still be advertisements illustrated by him.

See my Lilliput blog for more. . .

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Exhibition of self-portraits

I wish I could make it to haute-Provence for this summer show of Ronald's self-portraits in the village where he lived. The town also unveiled a memorial plaque above the front (back? -I was never sure!) door of his home.  His daughter Kate was there to represent the Searle family.

It looks like the exhibition has self-portraits from across Ronald's whole life-a testament to how long he lived! I've gathered many of them in this section.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


This cropped up on Twitter- E. Nesbit’s 'Book Of Dragons'. I'm unfamiliar with this book but it looks great and has been in print for a century! I'm not sure which edition features these wonderful Searle dragons but it looks like early Searle-perhaps late forties?

Friday, July 25, 2014


Restaurants and private clubs commissioned Searle to illustrate their menus, presumably to lend them an air of class or an ironic wink sending up their own stuffiness.

'Savage Club Ladies Night'
Published in Graphis #44 1952

Omar Khayyam Club menu 1955

Restaurant des Beaux Arts, St. Germaine, Paris
(see the post on the restaurant here)

Searle depicted the ceremonial entrance of the sommelier countless times over the years, skewering their pomp & circumstance with each drawing.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Searle and his first wife, Kaye Webb, met famous French vaudevillian Fernandel on their first trip to Paris. A portait dated 29th May 1950 appeared in their 'Paris Sketchbook'.

 In 1958 Searle would again capture the actor for Punch magazine's review column of Parisian Theatre

A card with a sketch by Searle and inscribed by Fernandel dated 30th October 1958

Punch theatre critic, Eric Keown, wrote 'Fernandel is fifty, his real name Fernand Desire Constandin.  He was born in Marseilles, where his father sang in cafes. . . At twenty he went to Paris to appear at a music-hall, and was discovered overnight.  Now he is the idol of France, and his vast, friendly smile warms the armies of his fans throughout Europe and America . . . His enormous brown eyes, of surpassing honesty, look right into you while he is talking.  He thinks before he speaks, and then speech is reinforced by a running commentary of natural mime.  He has beautiful hands.'

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Andre Francois

Searle was close to and admired the art of many of his contemporaries but none more so than Andre Francois. He even published a book on Francois' art through his Perpetua publishing house 'Andre Francois: The Biting Eye' (1960).  Searle visited the Romanian émigré at his studio in France and took a series of photographs of the artist and his studio home. I would place these photos around the early 1970s and I believe this is the studio that tragically burnt down towards the end of Francois' life.

 In his ever meticulous manner Searle notes the top two pictures are close-ups of the bottom. He highlights the playful trompe-l'œil shelves.

Francois' style was generally less sophisticated than Searle's in terms of draughtsmanship but that was part of the success of his visual humour. Francois sometimes drew in a more intricate Searle style.

Conversely Searle's work in the 1960s approached the experimental nature of Francois', especially the expressionistic 'Anatomis & Decapitations' series and 'Baron Munchausen'.

Kate Searle, the artist's daughter, kept an autograph book as a child and collected signatures and doodles from her father's friends including this one by Francois.