Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Searle in Hawaii

In February 1965 Searle travelled to Hawaii on a reportage assignment for Holiday magazine.
Ronald would trade in his first class ticket (an expense covered by the magazine) for two economy class tickets allowing Monica to accompany him.
They stayed at the Hanekulani Hotel, Honolulu from 11th -24th Feb.

They related their impressions of Honolulu in a letter to his secretary at Perpetua Jean Elsmoore:

"About the only place you'll find the romance of the Sandwich Islands is on postcards like this.  It is really rather like Los Angeles and an awfully long way to come for the same sort of material.  However the people are nice and the climate is sunny and steadily in the 70's it has taken us just about a week to acclimatise and drag ourselves about.  This enervating air I suppose geared to flopping on the beach and not moving.  One thing they do have here is flowers and flowers and flowers. . . "

Monica added "Greetings from the most commercial paradise so far"

(Transcribed in Ronald Searle Remembered, Chris Beetles Gallery 2012)

On their adventures for Holiday magazine the Searles established a routine where, upon arriving, Ronald would find the nearest postcard shop and identify the major landmarks of a location that may feature in a Holiday article.  Through the day he would make observational sketches, thinking of gags and noting amusing characters.  Monica would cover the scene with a camera to capture any details Ronald missed out then back at their hotel in the evenings Ronald would work up a finished picture.  They would proceed like this daily before flying on to the next destination.

In the letter  it seems they took it slowly in the tropical heat and I recall them telling me that the climate exarcebated Ronald's health problems.  He was stricken with a return of symptoms of the diseases he suffered in the jungle as a POW. I believe this had an impact on his ability to work  effectively and some of the Hawaii drawings were finished back on mainland US soil.
However these Hawaii images are amongst some of my favourite of Searle's Holiday drawings.

With this raucous depiction of Waikiki Beach Searle elaborated on his location sketch below-playfully annotated "plus cast of thousands"! The gag concerning male tourists serenading their wives with ukeleles most likely sprung from the small sketch below.

I interpret this gag as an elderly tourist (or resident) painting a 'chocolate box' sunset.

'Hotel Street, Honolulu'

The waitress sketched in blue below made into the composition above.
These hula girls too it would seem?
And this couple?

In the following sketchbook drawing of 'Aala Street' we can see just how much Searle later embellished the scene in the final drawing.  This image and the previous finished picture were unpublished by Holiday as far as I know.

Always searching for a gag Searle notes that grass skirts are fire resistant

This devilish totem inspired the gag in the next image 
Again, these two remain, I believe, unpublished.

 After Oahu Searle's next assignment was to report from the Catskills which I'll get to in the next post . . .

(Thanks to Mark Stanleigh for the Holiday mag contributions, Chris Beetles Gallery for the letter transcription and Ronald for letting me photograph his sketchbooks.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Penguin Ronald Searle

Searle had a long-standing association with UK publishers Penguin Books. They commissioned him to illustrate a collection of paperback editions (some of which he had illustrated the hardback editions-see Book Covers section).

'The Painted Veil' looks like a re-use of a portrait of W. Somerset Maugham originally published in Punch magazine.

The next one was also published in Radio Times illustrating Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'

Of course Penguin also reprinted the essential collections of Searle's cartoons and St Trinians

Also a fine collection not published in the USA (reprinting some images made for American periodical Holiday magazine)

Searle finalized the 'penguin self-portrait' gag as a Searle-mask wearing bird!

(Thanks to Stephen Nadler for the above image)

Penguin also published the Molesworth books and Refugees

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Spring update 2012

Chris Beetles Gallery, London has what promises to be a wide ranging exhibition of Searle's work. The catalogue is available to view on their website. It's an exciting publication for Searle fans featuring all the rare material Beetles has collated over the years-from sketchbooks, rough versions of well known pieces to private letters and drawings made for friends. For any Searle fans in London this show will be unmissable.

Leif Peng's essential Today's Inspiration rounds up a series of posts on reportage with Searle here

ECC have part 6 of their appreciation of Searle's career here
Attempted Bloggery marked Earth Day with a Searle image here and dissect plastic surgery here

I've updated the following sections

Chelsea Arts Ball
Festival of Britain
Self Portrait
Lemon Hart Rum