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Ronald Searle at the Cartoon Museum, London

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Harrock n roll
Moderator
#1 · Posted: 18 Mar 2010 20:32
Any Ronald Searle fans here?

The Cartoon Museum in London are holding a Ronald Searle exhibition (arguably one of Britain's greatest living cartoonists). He lives in France now and is celebrating his 90th birthday. Steve Bell, the cartoonist (and one of the trustees of the Museum) and Anita O'Brien, the Museum's curator, had the rare privilege of visiting Searle in Haute-Provence and interviewing him. Most of his archive was donated to the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover, Germany some years ago, and they have lent a large portion of this exhibition. Searle himself lent many pieces too. There are rarely-seen drawings by Searle when he was a POW in Changi, on loan from the Imperial War Museum. The Museum is also hosting a number of talks about Searle, one of which will be a rare chance to see some of his animated cartoons.

I was quite blown away by the exhibition. Searle perhaps isn't as celebrated in the UK as he once was, but his influence has been immense - you only have to see the work to appreciate this. He's certainly appreciated more in America, in France (where he lives) and also in Germany (where is archive is kept).

The Cartoon Museum is a great little place buried away in the back streets of Bloomsbury. It's quite small but manages to cram a lot in. The slant is on British cartoons, comic strips and caricature and has a wide range of work from Gillray and Hogarth to Dan Dare and the Beano. They receive no public funding and survive thanks to the fundraising activities of the trustees and staff, existing to preserve and display the work of British artists to the general public. They also host educational services, workshops and talks. It's not a private gallery, like Chris Beetles Gallery, so they don't sell artwork. There's a pretty good shop in the entrance lobby before you enter the museum which sells books, posters and cards.

If you're not able to see this exhibition, there is a well-written catalogue accompanying it. It costs £14.99 plus p&p (contact the Cartoon Museum to order one). It's a real collector's item and a reproduces much of what's in the exhibition - a very nice collection of the artist's work.

The Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH.
Telephone 0207 580 8155.
Email: info [at] cartoonmuseum.org

OPENING TIMES
Tuesday- Saturday 10.30-5.30.
Sunday 12.00 - 5.30
(Closed on Mondays including Bank Holiday Mondays)

ADMISSION
£5.50 Adults
£4 Concessions
£3 Students with valid student ID
Free to Under-18s, Art Fund Members and
Friends of the Cartoon Museum

Some relevant links:
An excellent Ronald Searle tribute site run by Matt Jones, who will be giving the talk about Searle's animations.
Steve Bell's article from The Guardian
A recent interview with the man himself, from Channel 4 News
Balthazar
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 18 Mar 2010 21:07
Harrock n roll:
Any Ronald Searle fans here?

Certainly! I'd spotted this was on and I'll definitely try and see it if I'm down in London before it closes. Thanks for the tip about the catalogue and the talks programme too. And I second your recommendation of the Cartoon Museum generally.

According to Harry Thompson's biography, Hergé was a Searle fan, but then you'd be pushed to find a decent cartoonist or artist on the planet who isn't. It'd be hard to overstate how famous and artistically influencial he was in the 1950s and 60s. I think part of the reason for his becoming less of a household name in the UK in recent decades was his deliberate decision to flee from fame, overwork and family life in the 1960s and relocate to a quieter life in France.

Overwork seems to be an occupational hazard for successful cartoonists. Some, like Winsor McCay and Dudley D Watkins seem to have been driven to an early death by the relentless deadlines. Others, like Searle and Hergé manage to deliberately slow down their output in later life, enjoy the good things of life, and live to a good age. (A very good age in the case of Searle!)
rodney
Member
#3 · Posted: 18 Mar 2010 23:57
I'm a huge fan, love his drawings in Jeffrey Archer's short story - Cat O Nine Tails..
Balthazar:
According to Harry Thompson's biography, Hergé was a Searle fan

I found this interesting as it say's in the bio that Herge has an 'understandable fondness' for Searle - meaning Herge's a fan!
Yet in Michael Farr's recent bio - 'The Adventures of Herge' their is a whole section on art yet he fails to mention Ronald Searle at all?

I've always wondered why this was the case??
jock123
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 19 Mar 2010 00:58
rodney:
I'm a huge fan, love his drawings in Jeffrey Archer's short story - Cat O Nine Tails..

Then you might like to know that original illustrations from it (as well as many other cartoons and illustrations he has done) are currently on show at the Chris Beetles Gallery in Ryder Street, London, until April 3rd. Well worth a visit - and you can buy them if you are feeling flush…!
rodney
Member
#5 · Posted: 19 Mar 2010 12:13
Hey Jock!

Thanks for the info, I've seen some of the cartoons and it seems quite reasonable prices to ensure a piece of Ronald is secured!!

Thanks for the advice on where to view his works for sale, would not have known otherwise :)

Are you a fan of Carl Barks??
Balthazar
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 19 Mar 2010 13:03 · Edited by: Balthazar
rodney:
I found this interesting as it say's in the bio that Herge has an 'understandable fondness' for Searle - meaning Herge's a fan!
Yet in Michael Farr's recent bio - 'The Adventures of Herge' their is a whole section on art yet he fails to mention Ronald Searle at all?

I've always wondered why this was the case??

I guess it's due to the different approaches and backgrounds of the two biographers.

Harry Thompson, as a British TV comedy writer and producer, seems to most appreciate Tintin for its humour (his conclusion to his book is that it was in comedy that Hergé's real genius lay), so the fact that Hergé was a Searle fan would have struck him as interesting and worth reporting - a nice link between two great graphic masters of comedy.

Farr, on the other hand, comes from a journalistic background, so seems much more interested and impressed by Hergé as a researcher and recorder of 20th Century history. He was also working closely with Hergé's estate and archive, so tends to focus on things that are significant to Hergé's journey through life and his artistic development. So in the book you mention, I think Farr tends to focus on art that directly influenced Hergé's style, such as the oriental art that Chang opened his eyes to, and on the modern art that Hergé collected with a passion in later life. (I don't have the book in front of me, but that's my recollection of that chapter.) Searle doesn't seem to have had any direct influence on Hergé's drawing style, so if Farr picked up on the fact that Hergé was a fan, he presumeably decided it wasn't noteworthy or relevant to his chapter's main themes.

And of course it's quite possible that Farr didn't even pick up on the fact that Hergé had a fondness for Searle from any of his sources. Harry Thompson, having no official approval or assistance with his book, seems to have talked to quite different sources than Farr, such as Bob de Moor and Michael Turner.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#7 · Posted: 19 Mar 2010 13:39 · Edited by: Harrock n roll
Balthazar:
According to Harry Thompson's biography, Hergé was a Searle fan, but then you'd be pushed to find a decent cartoonist or artist on the planet who isn't.

Ah, thanks for that. I thought I'd read somewhere that Hergé was a fan of Searle, but couldn't remember where, so thanks for reminding me it was in Harry Thompson's book. I wonder whether Hergé saw any of Searle's reportage work? There are some very atmospheric drawings which he did for the Adolf Eichmann trial in the 60s. Another book worth seeking out is "To the Kwai and Back" which contains many of the drawings he did while he was a POW. There are some quite harrowing and also some extraordinarily beautiful drawings, it's worth borrowing a copy if you can.

I've been re-reading Searle's (and Geoffrey Willans) Molesworth books recently and it struck me that my year was probably at the end of appreciation for them. The book seemed a bit dated in 1978, but there was still a faint wisp of the 1950s in 1970s Britain. Actually, there were still people wearing mortar boards when I started at my school in the late 70s (and it wasn't a boarding school, or even that posh a school!) I doubt you would find a Molesworth book in a school library today, or more to the point, most school kids probably wouldn't relate to it. It would probably seem prehistoric in the age of mobiles and computers. The other thing that occurred to me (as a Beatles devotee) was that there's quite a lot of Molesworth in John Lennon; it's partly Geoffrey Willans brilliant mangled language, and it's the artwork too. I've since read of quote of Lennon's where he said "The two people who have probably had the greatest influence on my life are Lewis Carroll and Ronald Searle", so I've come to the opinion that Lennon pretty much based his life on them! (well, a bit of his life...)


rodney:
I found this interesting as it say's in the bio that Herge has an 'understandable fondness' for Searle - meaning Herge's a fan! Yet in Michael Farr's recent bio - 'The Adventures of Herge' their is a whole section on art yet he fails to mention Ronald Searle at all? I've always wondered why this was the case??

I must admit, I still prefer Harry Thompson's one book over Farr's entire output. I think Michael Farr (and other writers, to be fair) could do more to talk about what and whom influenced Hergé - and generally put him more within the cultural landscape. There's been a tendency by a few writers to separate Hergé from his peers. It's not like Hergé invented everything in comic strip! But, unfortunately, that's the feeling I often get when I read one of Michael Farr's books.
rodney
Member
#8 · Posted: 20 Mar 2010 01:10 · Edited by: rodney
I have to say this has been my most enjoyable forum thread I've had the opportunity to read and input since joining.


Balthazar - your comments and interpretations were a joy to read, your argument really make sense and your view point is probably spot on!

Balthazar:
it's quite possible that Farr didn't even pick up on the fact that Hergé had a fondness for Searle from any of his sources. Harry Thompson, having no official approval or assistance with his book, seems to have talked to quite different sources than Farr, such as Bob de Moor and Michael Turner.

I've always thought that Thompson wrote such a great bio based on the fact both de Moor and Turner were given the opportunity to share their experiences. It's some of their comments which made this book so good!

Harrock n roll:
I must admit, I still prefer Harry Thompson's one book over Farr's entire output. I think Michael Farr (and other writers, to be fair) could do more to talk about what and whom influenced Hergé

My feelings exactly!! I'm a huge fan of his bio. Just read my past forum posting - Tintin: Hergé and His Creation - By Harry Thompson
Top stuff, great discussions!!
Balthazar
Moderator
#9 · Posted: 4 Jan 2012 00:26
I just heard today that Ronald Searle has died, aged 91.

As discussed earlier in this thread, he was one of the world's most renowned and admired cartoonists, and you'll see from many of the media obituaries that Hergé was by no means the only fellow cartoonist or illustrator to hold his work in the highest regard.

I'm glad his 90th year was marked so prominently and I hope he enjoyed it. That exhibition at the Cartoon Museum, which I went to see with Jock, was excellent.

I'm sure all us lovers of Searle's work at Tintinologist send sympathies to his family.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#10 · Posted: 4 Jan 2012 22:56
It's sad that his wife died only six months ago after a long battle with cancer. I'm glad that they had that exhibition for his 90th just the other year (or the year before), it brought him back to the public consciousness in the UK in a small way (there was a long Channel 4 news special on him made for it). He had a very distinctive style, that scratchy pen style was much emulated in the 60s, and he did fantastic lettering too, which I always tried to copy when I was a kid. He was one of the greats, I think.

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