Thursday 21 August 2008


Ronald Searle is one of the great cartoonists of the Twentieth Century, with a scabrous, dark style that must have been sharpened by his experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War Two. Fortunately, he is still alive and still cartooning today.

One of my favourites from his work is Slightly Foxed - but still desirable, a book of cartoons which take the piss from various antiquarian book-dealing terms. Here's the cover, and a few badly-photographed pages from within (I apologise for the quality of these, but it's a huge book and won't fit on my scanner0.

Dented at head

Evidence of some insect damage

Foxed throughout

Of course, Searle is most famous for his St Trinian's cartoons,about the girls' school full of psychopaths, which have been collected, re-collected and reprinted in numerous volumes throughout the years. (Many of these, and of the other following images, have been taken from the excellent Perpetua Ronald Searle Tribute blog).

He is also one of the two masterminds behind the Molesworth books. If you don't know of these incessantly quotable parodies of English "public school" life, you need to seek them out.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Here are a selection of his other covers, both for his own books and for books he did with others.

I'm not quite sure how that last book came about--two less likely collaborators are hard to imagine. Though if your stock in trade is drawing hideous grotesques, spending time with Jeffrey Archer would at least give you some material.

As I say, though, pop over to Perpetua to see much more: magazine covers, advertising art, sketches, and more.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for posting all these Searle covers. You made it a little easy to get my Searle fix to keep me inspired.

JRSM said...

My pleasure! Am looking at doing something similar for Ralph Steadman's cover work--there seem (to me at least) to be a lot of similarities in their style/worldview.

Jeffrey Meyer said...

Can you tell me if this is a Searle cover?

Many thanks.

JRSM said...

Hi, Jeffrey: Yes, it is a Ronald Searle cover--he also did the movie poster and album covers! See:

Hope that helps!

Dave Shelton said...

Re the Jeffrey Archer book: Archer is a big Searle fan (I choose to believe that the admiration goes in one direction only) and collects his work, I think. He requested that Searle illustrate the book and, if I remember rightly, Searle's reply was that he would do so but only if Archer bought all the originals too.

JRSM said...

Thanks for that Dave: good to know a bit of the background to a collaboration that has puzzled me. At least Searle made a double profit from the deal. And Archer has some taste, at least.

Ian Koviak said...

USA for Beginners is classic and so perfect. You don't see that kind of stuff nowadays.

JRSM said...

Now you'd just get a stock photo of a flag, I suspect.