Tuesday, May 03, 2016


In 1961 Searle was sent on an assignment for Life magazine to cover the trial of Gestapo chief Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Searle was the sole draughtsman among a throng of photographers which is exactly why the magazine wanted his unique perspective. He struggled with the impassive features of the accused, making many sketches, and eventually moving on to the judges and court staff for contextual supporting portraits. However the magazine only used three of the drawings in the final spread.

In a letter signed to his secretary Jean Ellsmore he relates his impression of Adolf Eichmann, "... a pretty cool customer - barely moves an eyebrow in hours. I'm sitting about 10 feet from him all the time - so somehow I should get a likeness!". The modern part of Jerusalem he describes as being "like a slightly oriental Notting Hill Gate." -Jerusalem, Israel, Friday, 14th April, [1961]

Digging through the LIFE Photo Archive I found this image of the journalists assembled at the trial. I believe I identified Searle amongst those gathered which he verified with me when shown the photo.

In correspondence with American artist Ruth Cyril he revealed his true feelings about this assignment:
'The trial - listening to those unspeakable stories for almost a month was alternately unutterably dull and unbearably harrowing. It plunged me into such gloom that O couldn't start on the work for ten days. I simply left the court at the end of each day, ate my Kosher omelette (or what ever the hell it what it was) and crept into bed at 9.0pm wishing myself the hell out of it.'

Searle's 'press' badge and a shot of him drawing next to a local artist.

See more of Searle's court drawing assignments here


warren said...

Incredible timing! I was a part of a jury selection on Monday here in Canada and I was wondering to myself how Mr. Searle might do the job. Now I know!


Anonymous said...

may the blessing be always with you!! ........................................

thedrawingpad said...

Dear Matt. Thank you for posting all of these photos. This is reportage at it's best. It's great to see the range of photos of this historical event that Ronald was able to capture. Documentary artwork like this has lots of significance.I first ran across your blog, I believe, shortly before Mr. Searle passed away. I'm glad and I appreciate you keeping up this blog.- ronald llanos