Pages

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Yugoslavia

In August-September 1947, Searle and four other British artists spent three weeks in Yugoslavia at the invitation of the Peoples’ Youth Railway project, linking Ĺ amac to Sarajevo. Joining the 460-strong British brigade they drew and painted in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. The groups' drawings and paintings were  exhibited the following year at the Leicester Galleries in London.  Five of Searle's drawings were published in 'The Railway: An Adventure in Construction' (1948).

Paul Hogarth writes in his autobiography:

“In the spring of 1947 I was asked to select four artists to record the building of a railway in the wilds of eastern Bosnia, then part of Yugoslavia.  At once I thought of Ronald Searle, who was becoming known through the pages of Punch and Lilliput.  His remarkable chronicle of life in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps had made a big impression on the public, and had he not helped to build another railway, a railway of death?  Still gaunt from the experience, he looked like a Grunewald Christ.  The other members of the group were Laurence Scarfe, who represented the English pastoral tradition of topographical watercolour painting; Percy Horton, the distinguished tutor of drawing at the RCA; the art historian Francis Klingender; and myself.
We departed in high spirits and, after an arduous train journey, finally arrived at Llubljana, the Slovene capital, in the sweltering heat of August.  The next day we began a demanding week drawing in the souks of Sarajevo and Zenica, before continuing to the construction sites of the 'Youth Railway', where we drew brawny, sun-bronzed students, wizened peasants and smooth-talking officials. . . 
". . . Inspiration on the trip did not come from our subject matter, but from Ronald Searle himself. His appetite for drawing was prodigious and totally undiminished by travel or fatigue. He would produce three or four large ink and wash drawings of construction scenes each day, plus numerous figure studies in pencil or conte. At night he would update his journal. It was the first time I had become acquainted with a working artist of my own generation and we became good friends. The business of getting to grips with the reality in front of you was not something that had been taught at art school,and seeing Searle work, I realised that this was something I had to master."





'BRITANSKA BRIGADA CAMP NEMILA YUGOSLAVIA (BOSNIA VALLEY) AND DATED 'DRAWN AUG 22 1947'
PEN INK AND MONOCHROME WATERCOLOUR 9 3/4 X 13 1/2 INCHES
 


'Yugoslav Miner'

'Peasant Boy, Yranduk' 

'Study of a boy, Vvduduk'






In a review of the exhibition dated February 20th, 1948 the 'Spectator' remarks on the drawings "by Ronald Searle, whose impressive graphic facility sometimes recalls the early John" - Augustus John I presume.

Sources:

ECC

'Passport to Peking' by Patrick Wright

Our Time Volumes 7-8
Studio International Volume 137
The Spectator Volume 180

1 comment:

mcn said...

I'd venture a guess that both Yranduk and Vvduduk are actually Vranduk, jotted not so legibly. :)