Master penman Ronald Searle turns 88 today. Here's his illustration for the song "National Brotherhood Week" from the book Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer With Not Enough Drawings by Ronald Searle. The original hangs in my dining room, just waiting to offend an unsuspecting diner. I think it's the only piece of art I've ever bought, and when I first unwrapped it I studied it for almost an hour, sometimes with my nose an inch from the paper. Look at those hands! just clumps of fingers sprouting out of sleeves, and look at the way he's laid out the page in bendy chains of rectangles, and jeez, all those gormless-looking faces...
I've heard that Searle plans his work pretty carefully and his unmistakably wiry, sprung lines are laid down with a lot more control than might be apparent. His work always makes me aware of how liquid ink is, how it skips and splotches and pools when it hits the paper. For a long time his style exerted a tidal pull on me, as it has at some point for a lot of cartoonists for over sixty years. Though he used to draw not with ink, but with a kind of stain meant for I think furniture. He liked it because it aged interestingly into a greyish purple, and because it handled differently than regular ink. They don't make that brand of stain anymore, and he's drawn with regular ink for years, and better than just about anyone else.
Happy Birthday to Mr. Searle, and I hope he's well and working in his converted windmill in the French countryside.
It's a brilliant piece of work. Thank you for sharing this and your thoughts on it.
It is great, and the song's great, too.
Great post! That's a beautiful piece of artwork to own. I run a searle Tribute blog here:
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