Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Studio magazine

A June 1949 profile of Searle in The Studio magazine highlighted the twenty nine year old artist's reportage and illustration work.

To read more about Searle's visit to Yugoslavia go here and his visit to Poland here

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

A rare' Searle-designed' animated film for 'Lemon Hart Rum' screens this weekend at the BFI in London. Details & tickets here.

The 3 minute film was produced by Larkin Studio in 1953. Music by Francis Chagrin. Art direction by Phil Windebank.

The short film was shown in UK cinemas and a printed booklet featuring art from the film was distributed at screenings. A copy exists in the Searle Archive in Hanover, Germany. 

More on Lemon Hart Rum here

See a stop-motion Searle style ad for 'Lemon Hart Rum' here

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Early on in his career Searle became best known in the UK for the St. Trinian's girls but when he later moved to Paris he found a commercial subject in cats. He confessed to me that he actually possessed no love of cats and that they were simply 'what sold'. The success of his cat books became an even heavier chain around his neck and it replaced the schoolgirls in what the public came to expect from him. Americans seem to adore his cats the most and as a longtime contributor to the New Yorker many of Searle's covers featured a feline gag.

Many of the cat drawings are admittedly funny. The early ones made while in Paris in the late 60s are quite experimental and no doubt informed Searle's more abstract experiments wit the 'Anatomies & Decapitations' series and his expressive work on Baron Munchausen.

Although it is 15 years since Ronald Searle last sketched the spindly ankle and leering eyeball of one of his pigtailed horrors from St Trinian's, a drastic effort to dissociate himself from them has never succeeded. "People are convinced that I am still producing them," Searle, who has settled in Paris, said. "It's baffling. Not too many people could really have seen them. I produced about one a month between 1946 and 1951, and then packed it in. The films helped to keep the image alive." The interment of St Trinian's was the beginning of a break with his past. A few years later he broke completely with his life in England, he separated from his first wife, signed over all his royalties to provide for their two children and came to Paris to start, financially, from scratch.
Now married again, aged 47, he has built up a new career, contributing to the "New Yorker" and "Holiday" doing travel books and organising exhibitions of his work in Europe. An exhibition of his cat drawings has just opened at St Germain des Prés. They are not pretty, cute cats with glossy furs, but vilified, spiky-haired individuals with doubts about the universe. Cats with a wrinkle of anxiety in their smeared eyes; harassed cats, cats shrinking from some menace (such as having discovered the truth about their own libido).
To imbue cats with human feelings is a logical outcome of drawing on one's own experience. When the girls of St Trinian's gleefully hung a schoolmistress by the thumbs, Searle was drawing on stark images from a Japanese prison camp. (As a Japanese magazine put it, "He took part in various battles until he was captivated by the Japanese Army.")
When he came back to Britain in 1945 editors snapped up his drawings of nasty little girls first sketched to amuse his fellow prisoners. "I had brought an element of horror into the public cartoon," Searle said, "and the climate was right for it." Within a short time his girls were helping to bring in an income of £25,000 a year. He now lives right in the student centre of Paris. "I find Paris keeps me in a continual state of excitement," he said.
[The French cartoonist] Sine, he feels, has cancelled himself out. "His magazine Sine-Massacre was inviting trouble. "He simply butchered the police, Government, army, and clergy. He just put himself out of business. His latest book, for example, is 60 pages exclusively devoted to lavatories. "I suppose you can pull the chain on the public, but I don't think it gets you anywhere."
Peter Lennon

Ronald's daughter, Kate, with his cat drawings.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Searle Mermaid

The mythical mermaid is a character ripe for  a whimsical interpretation from Searle.  She seemed to inspire creations that were quite special in Searle's ouvre.  For the 1955 Chelsea Arts Ball Searle was commissioned to create the decor with the theme of 'The Seven Seas'. He designed an elaborate centre-piece depicting Triton surrounded by mermaids which was recreated as a 50 foot sculpture! (To see more pictures from the event go here)

Even mermaids get cravings for ice cream on hot days according to this 1966 cover for Argosy magazine.

Ernest Hemingway was depicted as a mer-man in Punch magazine, 10th November, 1964.

Mermaids appear as sirens on Page 3 of 'Capsulysses', Punch magazine's 1955 greek myth spoof. See the full comic strip here.

 Here's a secret for Searle fans: The Hotel de la Plage in Rayol Canadel on the French Riviera has a very special mural created by Searle for the owners in 1965. Here are Ronald and his wife Monica with the current owner in 2008.

Menu design

Rough for 'The Non-Sexist Dictionary'

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Searle's Process

I haven't identified what this picture was made for but I thought it interesting as it gives an insight into Searle's colouring process. There are three parts - the line drawing on art board, a xeroxed overlay and the coloured back-board with watercolour over light blue pencilling. He wouldn't always work like this and it appears to be a late period drawing so colour separations were no longer needed. Perhaps he was getting two pictures out of it (and two payments?). Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friday, March 03, 2017

'Ronald Searle's America' pop-up exhibition

March 3rd is Ronald Searle's birthday. To celebrate I'll be hosting a ONE day exhibition at the Center Stage Gallery, Burbank TOMORROW, March 4th 1pm-4pm.

Monday, February 13, 2017

To celebrate Ronald Searle's birthday on March 3rd I'm helping to host a one-day 'pop-up' exhibition of his work at the Center Stage Gallery on Saturday, March 4th. Details here. I'll be signing the last copies of my book 'Ronald Searle's America'.