'One of the most influential illustrators and cartoonists of his time, Ronald William Fordham Searle, (1920 - 2011) is considered one of the leading artists of 20th century Euro-American illustrative
arts. The British artist whose artistic oeuvre spans over five decades, has contributed to numerous prominent publications, such as The New Yorker, the Sunday Express, News Chronicle and Punch
just to name a few.
The impact that Searle’s style has had on graphic arts is hard to overstate. Searle’s signature style of line drawings by ink pen has paved the way for innovations in contemporary illustration and
animated films. Regarded as a radical aesthetic during its time, this edgy style was to influence later generations of animated film across a span of genres, such as Walt Disney, United Productions
of America (UPA) animation studio, all as well as contemporary artists such as Sylvain Chomet and Matt Groening.
The Magical Pen Line: Ronald Searle features over 50 reproductions of rare illustrations, sketches and artefacts, from the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Wilhelm Busch Museum of Carica-
ture and Illustrative Arts (Germany).
The exhibition traces the young Ronald Searle’s time in Singapore as a prisoner of war. During this time, he produced more than 300 drawings and illustrations documenting the Japanese Occupation
in Singapore where he was captured and was forced to work on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway. This first part charts his un-flinching determination to give a personal and direct picture of the
facets of war, from ordinary days in the camp to brutal incidents, as well as early cartoons.
It also shows the birth of what became Searle’s signature style in the technique of quick and pointed sketching, and in the way he will present his satirical outlook of life. To quote him in a 1967
interview, “Everything was rooted there I think. To go into those sort of circumstances... inevitably marks you, marks your way on anything you do, anything you relate to afterwards.”
In this exhibition, you will see Searle’s skills and dexterity in translating scenes – both from the realms of conflict and struggle, as well as the realms of entertainment and satire – a skill that will later grow to cement his reputation as a versatile artist.
Complementing this selection are also his works as an illustrator and designer focusing not only on satirical cartoons, but also on his work on animated films, showing title and character designs as
well as story boards.
Searle received widespread recognition for his unique work, and original style especially in America. He received the National Cartoonists Society’s Advertising and Illustration Award in 1959 and
1965, the Reuben Award in 1960, their illustration Award in 1980 and their Advertising Award in 1986 and 1987. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004. In 2007,
he was decorated with one of France’s highest awards, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, and in 2009, he received the German Order of Merit.
The Magical Pen Line: Ronald Searle is held in conjunction with the Society of Animation Studies Conference which is organised by the School of Art, Design & Media (ADM), Nanyang Techno-
(From the pdf Exhibition & screenings here)