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Remembering Ronald Searle

May 22, 2012 in Events, News

Ronald Searle Punch cover

The Chris Beetles Gallery is hosting the exhibition Ronald Searle Remembered, in memory of the cartoonist who died in December.

The show, which starts today, features more than 400 works by Searle, who is widely regarded as the greatest cartoonist of the 20th century. It runs until June 9.

It includes some of the clandestine drawings he produced as an inmate of Changi Gaol, the notorious Japanese prisoner of war camp,  Punch covers, such as the one above, plus book and magazine illustrations.

St Trinian’s and Molesworth are represented, of course, alongside adverts for Lemon Hart rum and Searle’s reportage on many issues of the day. Also included are unpublished letters that provide new insights into the life of the great man.

Ronald Searle letter

Detail from a letter sent from Singapore, September 21, 1945

The gallery has produced an accompanying 200-page fully illustrated catalogue, featuring newly researched essays and notes. For more details, and to view the exhibition online, visit the Chris Beetles Gallery website.

After Searle

January 3, 2012 in Comment

Bloghorn: Ronald Searle in Le Monde

Many cartoonists could get sentimental about the work of the late Ronald Searle who has died, aged 91.

Bloghorn - A present from Searle

The long list of the self-described graphic satirist’s achievements are well documented here, here and here. Bloghorn also recommends a visit to the long-running Perpetua blog, especially for anyone not familar with the full range of the man’s work.

Some of the great outpouring of affection for the artist since news of his death can be read here and some we have also clipped some reactions for this post.

Bloghorn: what is a cartoonist?

Many professionals have responded to the news, as below, and often with reflections on Searle’s experences in the prison camps of the Second World War. Much of his work from his time in the army is held at the Imperial War Museum archive in London.

Bloghorn: Searle WW2

There are many terrific tributes and retrospectives, some provided by last year’s Cartoon Museum exhibition, for which Searle was persuaded to give a rare television interview. We also recommend a listen to to BBC Radio’s Desert island Discs programme talking to the artist in 2005.

Speaking on behalf of the Professional Cartoonist’s Organisation, Andy Davey, the chairman, said:

He was one of the greats. Influenced everybody. It’s hard to know where to start — he worked in every area — from The New Yorker to Le Monde, children’s illustration to reportage, advertising to books and excelled in all, leaving his elegant, easily identifiable mark. 

And on behalf of its sister organisation, the British Cartoonist’ Association, Martin Rowson said:

Immensely sad news about the death of Ronald Searle, tinged with a kind of insane gratitude that we had him for so long, particularly as he probably thought he was going to die when he was 19 or 20, as a prisoner of the Japanese. But if he had, the whole of post-war British cartooning would have been immeasurably poorer, not just because of his work, but because of his influence.

John Jensen, chairman of the BCA, added;

I feel I have lost a lifelong companion and mentor. Ancient cartoonists like myself remember Searle’s first post-war cartoons making an appearance in Lilliput back in 1946, and then spreading everywhere. Right from the off it was clear that this was the new boy on the block. A very big block.

We’ll finish with a present given by Ronald Searle as reported by a grateful recepient on Twitter:

Bloghorn - Ronald_Searle_a_gift

And yes, of course, she kept the original.

Graphic Satirist Ronald Searle dies

January 3, 2012 in Comment

Ronald Searle, widely judged by his colleagues in cartooning to be the greatest cartoonist of the 20th century has died aged 91 at his home in the south of France.

Bloghorn recommends exploring these words and pictures from the UK National Cartoon Museum Searle show of last year.

We shall be returning to the subject of the great man’s work.

Ronald Searle on Ronald Searle

March 11, 2010 in Comment


Interviewed by, wait for it, Nick Glass* for Channel 4 News.
Bloghorn says watch for the full explanation.

Steve Bell on Ronald Searle

March 10, 2010 in Comment

Cartoonist Steve Bell, who curated the current Ronald Searle show at the Cartoon Museum writes here about the experience. You can read more of Bloghorn’s coverage about the three Searle shows currently on in London here.

Ronald Searle shows open in London

March 2, 2010 in Comment


In the spirit of our recent coverage of the Ronald Searle exhibitions, we are pleased to publish Martin Rowson‘s article from the exhibition catalogue produced by the Cartoon Museum.

In 1999 Ronald Searle was judged, by his fellow cartoonists, to be the greatest cartoonist of the 20th Century. It’s a judgement I thoroughly endorse, though as someone who was brought up on Searle, like most people of my generation born in the late 50s and early 60s, I thought distant worship would be as close as I ever got to him. After all, Searle famously scarpered when I was about one, so I, along with other British cartoonists, could only ever venerate him as the King Across the Water.

Still, when I was approached in 2005 to front a BBC4 documentary about Searle, I jumped at the chance, even though he made clear very early on he wanted nothing whatsoever to do the making of the film or anyone involved with it. That’s his prerogative, and my reverence for him includes a deep respect for his desire for a bit of peace and quiet. Nonetheless, the programme went ahead without him, and I enjoyed it for the most part (although, as I’d decided to speak to camera unscripted, to capture a greater sense of immediacy, there were occasions when the demands of the producer that I repeat a line 20 times meant that by the end I kept forgetting it, as well as forgetting what it could possibly mean.)

Part of the gig – part of the reason they’d got me to do it in the first place – was that, when pressed, I can draw a little bit like the master, and I did several pieces to camera sitting at a drawing board and replicating his style. One riff I went off on was the idea that Searle had invented his version of Hogarth’s famous “Line of Beauty”, which in his case was the “Angle of Beauty”, which I claimed was an acute angle of 37 degrees (I made that bit up, but you get the point) which can be seen repeated again and again in his depiction of feet and noses. I argued further that feet and legs – be they spindly, black-stockinged St Trinian’s legs, or the tree-trunk legs of the Masters at St Custard’s – were, for Searle, the windows to the soul.

All that may or may not be true, but I discovered a deeper truth when I was reproducing the standard Searle script for the “Entr’-Act” cards for the programme. Apart from the fact that each letter tended to twist my nibs into unusability, I soon realised something about that gnarled, nobbly lettering: that without the way Searle drew and wrote, most of the best British post-war cartooning would be unimaginable. Every line of Steadman’s or Scarfe’s had its origins in Searle’s blots. Those blots had shown us all the true path.

Anyway, we finished the film and it was duly broadcast – though in post-production I felt they added too many interviews about his life, and didn’t concentrate enough on his drawing, but what do I know? The production company sent him the film, and were greeted with silence. But unreciprocity from your gods is what you should expect, so I didn’t mind that much.

But then, a few weeks after the programme’s first transmission, I got a letter, sent to my home, addressed in a strangely familiar handwriting. It was a personal letter from Searle, thanking me for placing the garlands on his brow and apologising for the fact that he’s be dead by the time it was my turn. The letter is now framed and hangs in its place of honour next to the only Searle original my wife could afford to buy me. Better yet, in the few interviews he’s given since, he’s been kind and generous enough to say he likes my work. So happy 90th birthday, Mr Searle, from a very humble and grateful admirer…

Bloghorn thanks The Cartoon Museum and Martin for permission to publish here in advance of tonight’s opening.

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Hats off to Searle at bookshop exhibition

March 1, 2010 in General


A small exhibition of original cartoons by Ronald Searle, all drawn for for Sarah Kortum’s book The Hatless Man: An Anthology of Odd & Forgotten Manners, is at Maggs Bros Antiquarian Books, 50 Berkeley Square, London from this Wednesday, March 3.

March 3 is the 90th birthday of Searle, and as we mentioned here on the Bloghorn last week, there are also two major exhibitions in London to mark the event. The Hatless Man, which was published in the US in 1995, was a compilation of more than 700 of the most irate and amusing condemnations of impropriety, taken from nearly 200 etiquette books from the 14th Century to the present. It featured 35 Searle drawings. The selling exhibition at Maggs Bros Antiquarian Books runs for three weeks. Visit their website.

Thanks to Anita O’Brien at the Cartoon Museum.

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Two exhibitions mark Searle's 90th

February 25, 2010 in Events


Next Wednesday, March 3, sees the 90th birthday of the hugely influential British cartoonist Ronald Searle. To celebrate, two exhibitions of his work will open on that day.

The creator of St Trinian’s (above, from Lilliput magazine) and illustrator of the Molesworth books, who has lived and worked in France since the 1960s, will be celebrated in shows at the Cartoon Museum and the Chris Beetles Gallery in London.

Ronald Searle – Graphic Master, an exhibition of cartoons, illustrations and reportage from across the world is at the Cartoon Museum until July 4. This exhibition shows 140 works from across his 75-year career, from his early cartoons for the Cambridge Daily News in the 1930s to political cartoons for Le Monde in the 2000s.


Some of his drawings recording life and death in Japanese prisoner of war camps, works which he famously hid from his captors, are included in the exhibition. Searle later produced reportage cartoons for American magazines such as Life. In 1961 he drew the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, above.

For more details on the show, visit the Cartoon Museum website.


The retrospective exhibition at Chris Beetles Gallery, called Happy Birthday Ronald Searle, runs until April 3. It features more than 200 cartoons and illustrations, all for sale, again covering all aspects of Searle’s career, including work from Punch and the News Chronicle, reportage, and adverts.

There are also by loans from private collections, which include work for Life drawn during the Nixon/Kennedy presidential campaign of 1960. The exhibition can be viewed at the Chris Beetles website.

To whet your appetite, The Times ran a very long and informative interview with Searle at the weekend: read it here. The Searle tribute site Perpetua is also well worth a look.

A fake Searle and a Posy Simmonds movie?

February 18, 2009 in Comment

According to Perpetua, a Ronald Searle blog, there may be an original Ronald Searle St. Trinians illustration for sale on eBay. Admittedly, there is a lack of provenance, and the buyer freely admits it may be merely ‘attributed to Ronald Searle’ or even just ‘after Ronald Searle’. Even with a lack of proof that it’s not a fake, it’s already reached over £300 on the auction website.

In other news, according to the Hollywood Reporter website, there appear to be plans afoot to make an animated feature of Posy SimmondsTamara Drewe graphic novel, originally serialised in the Guardian newspaper. Details are sketchy at this stage, but it looks like the BBC have commissioned Ruby Films to produce the feature supported by the UK Film Council. There will be more details on Bloghorn as soon as we hear about it.

Ronald Searle is 88 today

March 3, 2008 in General

One of the greatest British-born cartoonists has his 88th birthday today. Many happy returns Ronald Searle. You can find a short biography of Searle here.
British cartoon talent