Friday, March 29, 2013

New Yorker cartoons

Not only did Searle illustrate dozens of fine covers for the New Yorker but also contributed interior cartoons. The magazine ran several series by Searle including a delightful collection of historical what ifs entitled 'Crossed Paths'. (Later published in a book collection 'Marquis De Sade meets Goody Two Shoes')

'Daisy Ashford meets Concise Oxford'

In the introduction to 'Marquis de Sade meets Goody Two Shoes' Searle expands on the genesis of the project:

'The theme of this collection, that of crossing a few unlikely paths, first emerged a year or two back, while I was re-dipping into the murky life of  Edgar Allan Poe and re-encountering, that same afternoon, some of the worst of E. Hemingway's macho prose. Suddenly I had this distressing vision of Hemingway blasting the brains out of Poe's quothing raven, so that nevermore would the gloomy bird go on about doom, fate and the shocking price of bird seed in New York.  From then on it was only a short trot to other fanciful encounters.  Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de Sade, for example.  His sheer bad luck in crossing the path of the unspeakable Goody Two-Shoes, who was capable of crushing the spirit of men more monstrous and certainly less readable than he, was startling, to say the least of it.  
Is it not likely that one such numbing encounter - with or without skipping-rope - resulted in his incarceration and, finally, death in the lunatic asylum at Charenton?  Such unlikely pairing opened up a world of nightmarish possibilities.  Take old Omar Khayyám's brief encounter while he was lolling about with a loaf, a jug of wine and his girlfriend Thou, under a desert palm.  If only he had enrolled in the Charles Atlas Biceps Course before T. E. Lawrence kicked sand in his face, the Rubáiyát might have been less soppy.
Crosssed paths, like crossed legs, can conceal an awful lot of surprises.  Had impetuous Caesar, for example, listened more carefully, would he still have chopped de Gaulle into three parts?
Well, maybe . . . '

 Searle even interpreted the magazine's famous mascot Eustace Tilley . . .
. . . and sometimes contributed 'The Back Page'

This 'Angel of Inspiration' is, I believe, a New Yorker commission

The New Yorker's obituary for Searle

19th November 1966

Friday, March 22, 2013

"They're over here . . ."

American supermarket chains come to Italy - illustrations for an article on 'The Americanisation of Europe' in the Telegraph magazine 1965.   'Ronald Searle asks whether "Le Supermag" indicates the thin edge of a nasty wedge' indicates that he also wrote the copy as he would do for TV Guide in the 70s. It contains his usual eloquent phrasing and biting satire as sharp as his drawings .
'Europe may look askance at American politics abroad but she is trying to swallow whole certain other elements of American life.  By some, the self-Americanisation of Europe is seen as a rather nasty sort of masochism; by others, as a sinister and disarming method of infiltration by the CIA.  True, that many buildings go up instead of out, that the glass matchbox has become a dreary part of most European cities, dominating the gently crumbling tourist attractions.  True, that Coca Cola discs can be seen littering the walls of coffee shops in villages as remote as those of the High Atlas in Morocco.  But ths rash of red spots can no more pinpoint an Americanisation of Europe than a flood of Scotch whisky can indicate the Scotlandisation of France, or the now pot-holed autobahns of Mussolini and Hitler indicate the growth of Fascism in America because the Italians and the Germans got in first with super-highways . . . '
'. . . Though the importation of Le Supermag in France, or Selbestbedienung in Germany (to pick only two examples), might seem to indicate the thin end of a rather nasty wedge, the appearance in them of the now legendary can of red wine no more indicates a mass switch from the bottle than the appearance of canned London fog in America indicates a mass switch by the American continent away from American fresh air.
The American supermarket is an exportable idea, as is the European cuisine and the European pocket book.  A continent absorbs these elements into its own pattern until it comes to believe that they are its own.  If you told housewives that staunch British goods such as Lipton's Tea and Persil were, in that order, American and German in origin, they would look at you with pitying disbelief.
This imagined Americanisation of Europe is a European dream fulfillment.  It is not entirely wrong to say that in America, the word France conjures up a vision of the Can-Can.  In Europe, the word America conjures up the Wild West, cowboys and Indians, gangsters, James Dean and blue jeans.  America is New York (skyscrapers), Chicago (gangsters) and Hollywood (of course).  Anything else is the Far West (including Washington), or the Deep South.  However, this list has recently come to include Dallas, Texas. . . '
'There are Dr Kildare syringes in European toy shops, but Bonanza gets the ratings.  My local cinema in Paris showed 100 cowboy films in 100 days last year,and any night you had to queue to get in.
The latest addition to the neighbourhood is Le-Drugstore-Saint-Germain-des-Pres.  It is built of marble and brass and embellished with bronze shields which embody either the eye or the lips of a hero of our time.  The eye of Picasso is there, and so are the lips of Bardot.  Sticking out from the walls into the boulevard are half a dozen old bracket lamps, no longer lit by gas but still crowned with the traditional spike.
I predict that the first head to be impaled on a spike will be that of the American who gazes around Le Drugstore and says "Gee, this is just like we have at home."
Photograph of original drawing

The series of drawings was expanded and re-ublished a year later in American VENTURE magazine.  Searle's ever canny agent consistently sold the same drawings to multiple publication outlets!  The drawings added for Venture are even more impressive (and actually features the 'SuperMag' mentioned in the Telegraph piece but not illustrated!).

Searle had, of course, poked at the post-war American cultural 'invasion' previously such as this editorial picture for LIFE magazine almost a decade earlier.
"A critical view of American conduct abroad is expressed in this drawing . . . of U. S. visitors in an Italian town. Villagers watch, fascinated, from stairways as the strangely clad members of a tourist party, just disgorged from a huge American automobile, disport themselves about a fountain while one of a group of lounging GIs gives a wolf-whistle at a passing girl."

LIFE magazine 23 Dec 1957

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NYC exhibition

'This exhibition features the poetry of Robert Forbes and the drawings of Ronald Searle, featured in three books, BEASTLY FEASTS! A Mischievous Menagerie in Rhyme; LET’S HAVE A BITE! A Banquet of Beastly Rhymes, and the latest, BEAST FRIENDS FOREVER! Animal Lovers in Rhyme.

Robert Forbes writes:

All the drawings are done by the great Ronald Searle, and I think you will agree that they bring magic to the poems. When I first had enough poems to think about doing a book, I asked myself, who is the top, who is the best illustrator I could possibly get to do these? The answer for me was Ronald Searle, so I just asked. I have learned in life that if you don’t try, you will never know what could have been.

I am very grateful to him for interpreting all my creatures so brilliantly, with such zest and wit. By the way, if you look closely at each drawing you will see a mouse who shows up in every one! See if you can spot him

How does a book like this come together? What I did was write a bunch of poems and then I send them to Ronald.

A few months later, a large package arrives. I felt like a little boy at Christmas opening a highly anticipated present! Imagine my delight and wonder as my creatures sprang to life under his pens and inks, pastels and paints.

The key to these books, then, is imagination. When I read in schools and libraries, that is what I tell the children right away, that we are entering this world created by imagination but they must remember that they too have imaginations as good as mine or anybody else’s. So do you! .'

Through August 3, 2013

Monday, March 04, 2013


Stephen Nadler at the ever reliable Attempted Bloggery reminds me today, March 3rd,  is Ronald Searle's birthday!
See a celebration of swines over at Stephen's top knotch blog on cartooning and illustration here

Searle was, of course, famous for his cats but there were other creatures he drew almost as often.  These include dogs and birds  (which each deserve a post of their own) but curiously pigs too.

In fact Searle archived his sketches by animal category and the folders were labelled accordingly.  This folder contained sketches of pigs for various projects and also reference photos. Typically Searle would sketch from well researched reference and evolve the cartoon design.

Variations on the 'Moment of Reflection' (1972)
The piece appears to be a potential New Yorker cover proposal?

Sketch for Searle's 'Swine Lake' lithograph

Sketch for Searle's piggy version of Fragonard's 'The Swing' 
'Mislaid Masterpieces: SWINGER by Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806)
Despite its vivacity and virtuosity, this painting (c. 1765) was heavily criticized at the time, for not being sufficiently vacuous.  Furious, Fragonard revised the subject as L'Escarpolette, (Wallace Collection, London), in which he placed even more emphasis on the bestial behaviour of the participants.'
-Ronald Searle: In Perspective

                                                  Also published as a lithograph in the 70s

Here we see an amorous pig rejected by its pachyderm object of desire in a storyboard for an animated spot produced with Ivor Wood


The following are from Searle's sketchbook for his 'Zoodiac' book



'The Sensitive One'

'Déjeuner sur l'herbe' (1976)

The following were published in 'The Square Egg & the Vicious Circle' 1968

 This pig sleeps well while unnervingly sharing the room with a butchered human!

'This work was drawn in 1974, and it was edited in the back cover of the French magazine Le Fou Parle, issue number 9, in January 1979.' - ecc

We shall end this porcine birthday post with the idealized pig of Rome-ham Antiquity (sorry!)