Thursday, 11 March 2010

Ronald Searle Is Ninety

Earlier this month, the artist and cartoonist Ronald Searle celebrated his ninetieth birthday.

will always be remembered as the inventor of the St Trinian’s schoolgirls. He started drawing the girls during the mid 1940s, but grew imprisoned by their success; they and their school were killed off after nuclear experiments in the chemistry lab went terribly wrong. But the St Trinian's films which quickly followed during the mid-50s helped bring his artwork before a huge audience.

I love him for his Nigel Molesworth books: How To Be Topp; Down With Skool!; Back In The Jug Agane; Whizz For Atoms. With words by Geoffrey Willans, all are still available as Penguin Classics.

And Searle did so much more. The wonderful caricatures of
actors published by
Punch Magazine. His wine books. His cat books. The three hundred drawings he brought home from the River Kwai, enough to ensure immortality even if he'd done nothing else.

For many years, Ronald Searle has lived in France. On the continent, he's considered a fine artist who long ago outgrew his roots as a cartoonist. But here in Britain, he's still remembered chiefly for the girls of St Trinian's.

Steve Bell, the political cartoonist whose work appears in The Guardian, has said of him: 'What marks Searle's work out is genuine wit, intelligence and unabashed ambition. He is our greatest living cartoonist, with a lifelong dedication to his craft unequalled by any of his contemporaries. His work is truly international, yet absolutely grounded in the English comic tradition.'

The Cartoon Museum at Little Russell Street, WC1 is currently running an exhibition of Searle's work, showing 140 works spanning his seventy-five-year career, from
his early cartoons for the Cambridge Daily News in the 1930s to political cartoons for Le Monde in the 2000s. The celebration runs until 4 July.

Happy birthday Mr Searle.

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