Thursday, April 19, 2007

Toulouse Lautrec & the Whores of Hamburg

The same year that 'THE SECRET SKETCHBOOK' was published (1969) saw the release of 'THE SECOND COMING OF TOULOUSE LAUTREC', Searle's homage to the great French Impressionist of short stature with a penchant for hanging out in brothels.

The Hamburg sketches are signed & dated 1967 while the Lautrec drawings are dated 1969. It seems Searle's experience drawing the strippers of Hamburg directly informed the later 'imaginary' works, perhaps even inspiring the project. Searle could certainly now identify with Lautrec (to a degree) as an artist amongst 'les femmes de nuit'.

The women in the Lautrec project are drawn in the same loose manner as the 'Secret Sketchbook' & have the same realistic, 'womanly' proportions, un-glamorised female figures.

'Inscribed on the title page in black ink “For / Wendy / with love & / Happy Birthday wishes / - this bit of / backstreet reporting / by two of your / chums! / ? and Ronnie [underlined].” Beside the inscription Searle has drawn full page illustration of a cigarette smoking Fille de Hambourg in heels and stockings which he has dated underneath 1st May 1969. The recipient is actress, choreographer, stage and film director Wendy Toye with whom Searle collaborated on several projects.'  -Lucius Books

Here's the real sketchbook at the Searle archive in Hanover, Germany.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sketching 'in the field'

How much did Ronald Searle sketch 'in the field'? Were his wonderfully observed drawings such as that above made 'on the spot'. Did he create this marvellous picture with such vivid details & characters while sitting in semi-darkness in the basement bar of a Parisian 'revue show'?

In the book 'WHICH WAY DID HE GO?' the image appears next to this one.
Perhaps it offers us an insight into his working method; a clue as to how Searle may have worked in reality. It seems to indicate that Searle made quick, observational sketches 'on location', noting details that he would later combine & work into a cohesive whole back at his studio.
In Russell Davies' biography on Searle there are other indications that Searle worked in this manner. In the 60s while on assignment for HOLIDAY magazine Searle is said to have spent the day touring a particular destination/sight & then would draw up the finished illustration in the evening back at his hotel room.
Certainly his sketches made while in Hamburg seem to support this.

The unfinished, rapidly made marks of these sketches show that they were obviously made from life. The observations made here combined with memorised impressions allowed Searle to develop an image like this:

Further, in depth analysis of Searle's Hamburg Ladies over at Mark Kennedy's blog.

A drawing such as that above has the immediacy of a sketch made from life. The figures approach caricature but seem to be based on reality.

It's rare to find a Searle illustration that is an unfinished composition but again from 'WHERE DID HE GO?' we find a page of individual studies, perhaps taken from Searle's journey sketchbook?

These fairly realistic sketches made in a German beerhall must have been the foundation for the next more cartoony image:

"Place Dauphine, by the Place de Justice. May 6", depicting the square, with dog-walking woman, pissoir and trees,