Sunday, January 09, 2022

It Must Be True

IT MUST BE TRUE "It was all in the papers" 
Written by Denys Parsons & illustrated by Searle
Published by Macdonald, London, 1952 (fourth imp. March 1953

'Denys Parsons was the undisputed king of the misprint and over the years he compiled many best-selling volumes. It Must Be True brings together the very best of these timeless clangers dredged from the daily press across the English-speaking universe from the Berkhamsted Gazette to the Bulawayo Chronicle. Including both bizarre accidents of typesetting and delightful editorial bungles, most of the mishaps bring a hilarious unintentional new meaning, while others allow an inspired breed of nonsense to reign for a brief but glorious moment.'

It seems these books by Parsons proved popular and the publisher, Macdonald, put out several collections with illustrations by the best of the day including Haro and Anton (whose early influence on Searle's style can be detected).

Before the Parsons books Searle illustrated 'This England' published by Turnstile Press in 1949 -'a collection of newspaper cuttings, submitted by readers and published each week in The New Statesman and Nation'.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Remembering Ronald Searle


Remembering Ronald ten years after his death on December 30th, 2011 at 91 years old. View photos of him throughout his life here

Friday, December 24, 2021


In 1959 Searle and his first wife Kaye Webb planned an animated version of Dicken's classic ' A Christmas Carol'. Of course this was long before Richard Williams' award-winning version from 1971 and Robert Zemeckis' mo-cap version in 2009 and even predates UPA's 'Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol' in 1962.

 They teamed up with American animation director Dave Hilberman who Ronald had worked with in 1957 on "Energetically Yours' - a 13 minute long film celebrating Standard Oil's centenary.

A script was commissioned by British playwright Christopher Fry (Ronald had done the jacket illustration for Fry's 1951 publication of his verse play 'A Sleep of Prisoners').

I bought a copy of the script at auction several years ago and it is illustrated with Searle sketches. The story was made more 'animation-friendly' with the addition of a humorous mouse. 

I dug out Kaye Webb's correspondence on the production from her archive in the UK. She was effectively producing the film and lined up Alec Guinness to play Scrooge (he would later portray Jacob Marley in the 1970 live-action film by Ronald Name which featured a title sequence designed by Searle).
Julie Andrews was pegged to play Belle with John Gielgud as as Christmas Past, Stanley Hollow as Christmas Present, Peter Finch as Scrooge's nephew and John as Bob Cratchit. Webb wrote to Charles Laughton asking him to play Fezziwig.

It was never made but the drawings were later published in a new edition of the novel (read more on that here) and Searle's canny agent, John Locke' sold them to LIFE magazine which published a lavish spread in the December 19th, 1960 edition. Can you imagine Searle's version in animation?! I've assembled the surviving artwork here along with sketches from the script of the project.
See more about the unfinished production here:

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Rake's Progress pt.3

The British Museum website has steadily uploaded images of prints and drawings from its collections including the Ronald Searle material. I was able to visit the museum and look through the original drawings of 'The Rake's progress' in 2009 but time was limited and I couldn't request to see everything. However the website turns up this fascinating artifact- 

Searle's rough draft sketchbook in which he compiled the sketches with the finished printed cartoons. It's insightful to see how Searle altered the compositions between the rough and the final image.

(Click on an image to go through them full screen)

This gag on the final page is fun. No one would see this but Searle and you and I decades later.

See 'The Rake's Progress' pt.1 here and pt.2 here

Friday, September 17, 2021

Village Life

If you're ever in the haute-Provence region near Draguignan be sure to make the drive to Tourtour the village where Ronald Searle lived- it's worth the trip. The visitor's website had been updated with an online version of the exhibition that displayed Ronald's drawings for the village magazine Lou Troumeptoun. See it here

More on 'the village in the sky' Tourtour here

Monday, July 05, 2021

Summer of Searle

 I'm celebrating Searle's reportage work for HOLIDAY magazine on Instagram at the Art of Ronald Searle account here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Ronald Searle NEW BOOK preview

The exhibition celebrating the centenary of Ronald Searle's birth runs through the end of May 2021 at the Museum Wilhelm Busch, das Deutsche Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst in Hanover, Germany