Searle was involved in the 1951 Festival Of Britain in several aspects, not the least of which was his contribution to the 'Painter & Poet' series of films produced by Halas & Batchelor. Searle created an adaptation of Cowper's 'The Diverting History of John Gilpin'. The still drawings he produced were later released as a book.
'. . . As previously mentioned, the main attraction at the Telekinema was the showcasing of new cinematic The Painter and Poet series of four black and white art films, each under ten minutes long was produced by the British animators John Halas and Joy Batchelor. Artists including Mervyn Peake, Henry Moore and Ronald Searle created visual impressions of eight poems, narrated by such luminaries of the acting profession as Michael Redgrave, John Laurie, Eric Portman and Stanley Holloway. It was recognised that the films were ‘agreeable and enterprising [and that] they illustrate some of the possibilities of the technique even if, occasionally, they fail to realise them’. The most liked was Ronald
Searle’s interpretation of the William Cowper poem The Story of John Gilpin. One critic referred to Searle’s drawing as ‘so dynamic, it is difficult to realise that no picture on the screen is moving’.
Film and the Festival of Britain 1951 This article by Sarah Easen, Cataloguer, BUFVC and Curator of the NFT Festival of Britain Season and Exhibition, highlights the spectrum of films made specifically for the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951. Over twenty films were produced including a biopic on the life of William Friese-Greene, documentaries by Humphrey Jennings and Basil Wright as well as several Norman McLaren experimental 3-D films.
Festival of Britain: Woolly Smothers M.P to Herbert Morrison: “And what’s more Sir – I still think it would be a waste of money if it weren’t such a success!”.
'Rowland Emett at the Festival of Britain'
signed and dated 'Ronald Searle 1952'
pen and black ink, 14 1/4 x 10 1/4 in.
Searle's contemporary at Punch magazine Rowland Emett designed installations for the festival
The hard-copy Catalogue of the 1951 Festival of Britain Sherlock Holmes Exhibition contains a number of illustrations by Ronald Searle
Sherlock Holmes Catalogue of an Exhibition Held at Abbey House, Baker Street, London May - September 1951
(Public Libraries Committee of the Borough of St. Marylebone for the Festival of Britian, 1951. Frontispiece drawing by Ronald Searle of a reconstruction of the living-room at 221B Baker Street. )
FILMS & THE FESTIVAL BY SIR GERALD BARRY, DIRECTOR-GENERAL FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN*
*Sight & Sound magazine "Films in 1951: A Special Publication on British Films and Film-Makers" for the Festival of Britain.
"PAINTER AND POET"..a novel experiment, these series of films came about when a number of modern artists were asked to illustrate a poem of their own choosing: the finished films combine the drawings or paintings, a narrator or singer of the poem, and specially composed music. The artists who have contributed to the films are Henry Moore, Ronald Searle, Michael Ayrton, Mervyn Peake, John Minton, Michael Rothenstein, Barbara Jones and Michael Warre. Sponsored by the British Film Institute, "Painter and Poet" was produced by the John Halas company in association with Joan Maude and Michael Warre, who originated the idea and devised the script. The music is by Matyas Seiber.
SIGHT AND SOUND Number Volume 20 No. 2 Date: June 1951
Cover Illustration: JUDY GARLAND - THE HARVEY GIRLS
Articles with Illustrations: PAINTER AND POET - RONALD SEARLE, JOHN MINTON & MERVYN PEAKE; CANNES FESTIVAL; LA RONDE; AN OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS - CAROL REED; JUDY GARLAND; SOVIET CINEMA'S CHANGE OF HEART
Punch magazine issued a special souvenir edition published April 30th 1951. With twice as many pages as a regular issue the magazine features several Searle illustrations. In this terrific colour painting below we can see Searle working in the styles of great British artists such as William Blake and Henry Moore.
This full page spread features crams in dozens of the most well known British actors and actresses of the day.
For more of Searle's Punch Theatre work follow this link.