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21 December 2017: Ronald Searle

This week we are focusing upon the British artist and satirical cartoonist Ronald Searle. Searle created a wide variety of work during his lifetime but is perhaps best known for his work on the Molesworth series with Geoffrey Willans, and his creation of St Trinian’s school.

Despite his comical style, Searle’s professional career really began with the documentation of his time in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. His illustrations of the brutal camp conditions he suffered here, including drawings of prisoners dying of cholera were created out of a necessity to demonstrate what had been happening in the camp in the result of Searle’s death. Luckily Searle survived, along with 300 of his drawings from his time there. These works were later published in his fellow prisoner’s work The Naked Island. Many of his original drawings can now be seen at The Imperial War Museum in London alongside the work of other POW artists. 

 

 

 

Searle later went on to have an extremely successful career with his humorous and often satirical illustrations, producing a vast number of works. He produced drawings for a number of renowned periodicals, including Punch, The New Yorker, New Chronicle and The Sunday Express. One of his famous works, the series of books set in the fictitious school ‘St Trinian’s’ was based around his sister’s school in Cambridge. In 1953, Searle attempted to kill off St Trinian’s in order to focus on his more serious work, however, owing to their success in cinema, they remained his most distinctive trademark in Britain. 

 

 

In 1961, Searle moved to France and continued his work, focusing upon illustrated reportage, rather than cartoons, with magazines sending him across the world to draw landscapes, characters and events. He was widely honoured for his work, winning numerous awards, including the American National Cartoonists Society’s Advertising and Illustration Award in 1959 and 1965. He was also appointed CBE in 2004. 

 Alongside his work in the Imperial War Museum, there are also permanent exhibitions in the British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and many other institutions around the world. Searle had a huge impact in his field, and we are lucky to have many examples of his work in our library.  

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