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 Ronald William Fordham Searle  (1920 - 2011)



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Lived/Active: New York / England/France      Known for: satirical cartoonist, war artist

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Ad Code: 3
Ronald Searle
from Auction House Records.
"Back to school"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist:

Ronald Searle, Slyly Caustic Cartoonist, Dies at 91
Published: January 3, 2012

Ronald Searle, the British cartoonist and caricaturist whose outlandishly witty illustrations for books, magazine covers, newspaper editorial pages and advertisements helped define postwar graphic humor, died on Friday in Draguignan, in southeastern France, where he lived. He was 91.

His family said in a statement that he had died in his sleep after a short illness.

Lampooning the foibles of the English class system as well as clerics, politicians and even other artists, Mr. Searle was often described as a latter-day version of the 18th-century British graphic satirist William Hogarth. His cartoons combined an ear for linguistic nuance with a caustic pen and brush. With just a few well-placed lines, he pierced the facades of his targets without resorting to ridicule or rancor.

“His ability to draw in a variety of styles allowed him to master all forms of graphic art,” the caricaturist Edward Sorel said.

Yet his signature method, a curious mix of minimalist detailing and rococo flourishes using a vibrant watercolor palette, exuded a modern air — sometimes realistic, other times abstract, occasionally phantasmagoric — more reminiscent of the German expressionist George Grosz than Hogarth and his other British antecedents.

Mr. Searle’s sensibility, though rooted in an English tradition, was decidedly universal, and not always overtly comic. In addition to creating humorous covers for The New Yorker and TV Guide from the 1960s through the ’80s, as well as cartoons for the French newspaper Le Monde and illustrations for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, he recorded serious news events, including John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960 and the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem in 1961, covering them for Life magazine.

He also created pictorial travelogues for Holiday magazine, whose art director during the middle to late ’60s, Frank Zachary, sent him to various corners of the world to report on the growth of postwar industrial Europe and other subjects. Many editorial cartoonists and illustrators who came of age in those years were influenced by Mr. Searle’s approach and mimicked it.

Ronald William Fordham Searle was born on March 3, 1920, in Cambridge, England. While his working-class parents, William and Nellie Searle, were not “poor in the needy sense,” his biographer Russell Davies wrote, most of their money went to necessities. Still, recognizing their son’s talent, they bought him a set of pastels, and by age 9 he was drawing credible portraits of his family and friends.

At 15, Ronald paid for his own art school classes by working for a cartoonist at The Cambridge Daily News, where he also drew traditional continuous-panel strips with clever story lines in the graphic style of the early 20th-century cartoonist and humorist H. M. Bateman.

Mr. Searle became a satirist, he once said, because “in the late ’30s, things in general and politics in particular were no longer neatly divided into things black and white.”

“On top of this,” he added, “there was the irresistible impulse to draw. I cannot remember wanting to be anything else other than an artist.”

In 1939 he passed a government drafting test and joined the Army as an architectural draftsman. On the side he made impressionistic watercolor sketches of fellow soldiers and cartoons poking fun at military conventions. His work was first published in the magazine Lilliput in 1941.

In October of that year he was shipped off to Singapore, which soon fell to the Japanese. Captured, he spent the duration of the war in Changi prison, which provided forced labor for building the Burma railway, including the famous bridge over the River Kwai.

But he continued to draw, using crude implements and scraps of paper, recording the deplorable conditions of his camp and the fates of fellow soldiers. After he was repatriated in 1945, his drawings were exhibited in Cambridge. (In 1986 he published a book of them, To the Kwai — and Back: War Drawings 1939-1945.)

In 1948, Mr. Searle began writing and illustrating parodies about the impish, misbehaving students at a fictional English girls’ school called St. Trinian’s and publishing them in Lilliput. This led to a series of popular books, starting in 1948 with Hurrah for St. Trinian’s.

His St. Trinian’s girls were warmly embraced by the English public and established him as one of Britain’s leading cartoonists. Still, he began to complain of becoming a prisoner to his creations and the cottage industry of books and films that grew from them. To free himself from the burden of success, he blew up the school with an atomic bomb in 1952 in The Terror of St. Trinian’s.

But he could not kill the franchise; the characters were too popular. It continued until 1959, when he and his wife at the time, Kaye Webb, published The St. Trinian’s Story, a compilation. (In 2007, it was revived as a film, St. Trinian’s.)

Mr. Searle began contributing work to the venerable satiric magazine Punch in 1953, at the invitation of its editor, Malcolm Muggeridge. He soon became the highest-paid cartoonist on its staff and was sought after as an author, illustrator and animator, especially in the United States, where he designed the title sequences for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and other movies.

In the mid-1950s he founded a publishing company, Perpetua Books. His work has been collected in albums like “Merry England, etc.” and “The Rake’s Progress” (an homage to Hogarth’s famous portfolio of a similar name).

As time went on, his work occasionally became surreal and his comedy darker, as in his books The Square Egg (1968) and The Secret Sketchbook (1970). He continued to focus on familiar themes, like overpopulation and religion, but with more angst; a 1972 drawing titled The Arrival of God shows a huge crescent moon falling with a thud onto a large city.

In the late 1960s Mr. Searle and his second wife, the former Monica Koenig, moved from Paris to secluded country life in southeast France, near Cannes, where he continued to work.
His marriage to Ms. Webb, an editor of Lilliput and Puffin Books, whom he married in 1948, ended in divorce in 1967. His second wife died in July. Mr. Searle is survived by a son, John; a daughter, Kate Searle, and a grandson.

Despite his skeptical, satirical bent, Mr. Searle had a soft spot for animals, especially cats. The subjects of his books Searle’s Cats (1967) and More Cats (1975), hyperactive and dour, were among his favorite creations. He was also fascinated by snails, and found a way to link them with terror, intrigue and even sex in his 1969 book Hello — Where Did All the People Go?

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ronald William Fordham Searle, CBE, RDI, (born 3 March 1920, Cambridge, England) is an influential English artist and cartoonist. Best known as the creator of St Trinian's School (the subject of several books and seven full-length films). He is also the co-author (with Geoffrey Willans) of the Molesworth tetralogy.

Searle was born in Cambridge where his father was a porter at Cambridge Railway Station. He started drawing at the age of five and left school at the age of 15.  In April 1939, realizing that war was inevitable, he abandoned his art studies to enlist in the Royal Engineers.  He trained at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology, currently Anglia Ruskin University, for two years, and in 1941, published the first St Trinian's cartoon in the magazine Lilliput.

In January 1942 he was stationed in Singapore. After a month of fighting in Malaya, Singapore fell to the Japanese, and he was taken prisoner along with his cousin Tom Fordham Searle.  He spent the rest of the war a prisoner, first in Changi Prison and then in the Kwai jungle, working on the Siam-Burma Death Railway.

The brutal camp conditions were documented by Searle in a series of drawings that he hid under the mattresses of prisoners dying of cholera.  Liberated late in 1945, Searle returned to England where he published several of the surviving drawings in fellow prisoner Russell Braddon's The Naked Island.  Most of these drawings appear in his 1986 book, Ronald Searle: To the Kwai and Back, War Drawings 1939-1945.  At least one of the drawings is on display at the Changi Museum and Chapel, Singapore, but the majority of these original drawings, approximately 300, are in the permanent collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, along with the works of other POW artists.  The best known of these are Jack Bridger Chalker, Philip Meninsky and Ashley George Old.

He married the journalist Kaye Webb in 1947; they had twins, Kate and Johnny.  Searle produced an extraordinary volume of work during the 1950s, including drawings for Life, Holiday and Punch.  His cartoons appeared in The New Yorker, the Sunday Express and the News Chronicle.  He compiled more St Trinian's books, which were based on his sister's school and other girls' schools in Cambridge, and collaborated with Geoffrey Willans on the Molesworth books (Down With Skool!, 1953, and How to be Topp, 1954), and with Alex Atkinson on travel books; and did animation in Hollywood and worked on advertisements and posters. Searle also drew the title backgrounds of the Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder film The Happiest Days of Your Life.

In 1961 he moved to Paris, leaving his family and later marrying Monica Koenig, theatre designer and creator of necklaces.  In France he worked more on reportage for Life and Holiday and less on cartoons.  He also continued to work in a broad range of media, and produced books (including his well-known cat books), animated films and sculpture for commemorative medals, both for the French Mint and the British Art Medal Society.

Searle did a considerable amount of designing for the cinema and in 1965, he completed the opening, intermission and closing credits for the popular comedy Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.  In 1975 the full-length cartoon Dick Deadeye was released.  Animated by a number of artists both British and French, it is considered by some to be his greatest achievement, although Searle himself detested the result. Since 1975 he and Monica have lived and worked in the mountains of Haute Provence.

In 2010 he gave about 2,200 of his works as permanent loans to Wilhelm Busch Museum Hannover (Germany) now renamed Deutsches Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst, the ancient Summer palace of George 1st, that holds Searle's archives.

Searle received much recognition for his work, especially in America, including the National Cartoonist Society Advertising and Illustration Award in 1959 and 1965, the Reuben Award in 1960, their Illustration Award in 1980 and their Advertising Award in 1986 and 1987.

His work has had a great deal of influence, particularly on American cartoonists, including Pat Oliphant, Matt Groening, Hilary Knight and the animators of Disney's 101 Dalmatians.  In 2005 he was the subject of a long BBC documentary on his life and work by Russell Davies. In 2007 he was decorated with France's highest award, the Légion d'honneur and in 2009 he received the German Order of Merit.

Partial Bibliography

    •    Back to the Slaughterhouse and Other Ugly Moments, Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd., 1951
    •    Down With Skool!: A Guide to School Life for Tiny Pupils and Their Parents (with Geoffrey Willans), Max Parrish and Co Ltd., 1953
    •    The Female Approach: The Belles of St. Trinian's and Other Cartoons, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1954
    •    How to be Topp: A Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils, Including All There is to Kno About Space (with Geoffrey Willans), The Vanguard Press, New York, 1954
    •    Merry England Etc., Perpetua Books, London, 1956
    •    The 13 Clocks and the Wonderful O (written by James Thurber), Penguin Books Ltd., 1962
    •    Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer With Not Enough Drawings by Ronald Searle, Pantheon Books, New York, 1981
    •    Ronald Searle: To the Kwai and Back, War Drawings 1939-1945, The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986
    •    Slightly Foxed But Still Desirable: Ronald Searle's Wicked World of Book Collecting, Souvenir Press Ltd, London, 1989
    •    St. Trinian's: The Entire Appalling Business, The Rookery Press, New York, 2008
[edit] Books illustrated by Searle
    •    Stolen Journey, by Oliver Philpot, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1950. (third man in the 'Wooden Horse' escape) - 30 line illustrations.
    •    The Great Fur Opera: Annals of the Hudson's Bay Company 1670-1970 written by Kildare Dobbs. 1970.

Wikipedia, Ronald William Searle

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