Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ronald Searle

By now many of you have probably read obituaries for British illustrator Ronald Searle, who passed away late last year.
All I can add here are a few masterpieces which I acquired over the years.
Come to think of it, Searle's work has always been an important inspiration to me.
And because he was so prolific, there is much to admire.

The connection to Disney Animation is apparent to everybody with an eye for design and caricature. As you see in the photo, Searle visited Disney Studios
(in 1957), where he spent time with Walt and the animators. It was Ward Kimball
with whom he stayed in touch with over the years. Kimball kept a large framed Searle drawing, depicting a very old Mickey Mouse, in his living room. It was a gift.
Searle's graphic influence can be seen in Disney short films like "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom", "Pigs is Pigs" and others.
The feature "101 Dalmatians" looks like it was art directed by Searle. Ken Anderson sure knew how to apply the Searle style to that film. To this day "101 Dalmatians" remains the most visually gutsy, most modern and avant-gard looking Disney feature.
Chief character designer and animator Milt Kahl admired Searle as well. Both artists were true masters of the line. From Madame Mim to Madame Medusa,
there are visual influences. I wonder if Milt had ever seen the Searle illustration of Lucille Ball for TV Guide from 1966, when he designed Medusa a few years later.
Conceptually there are parallels, the wild orange hair, big eyes, arms and legs like sticks etc.

I don't think there is any doubt here that Milt studied and re-interpreted this Searle book illustration for the character of George Hautecourt from "The Aristocats".

Ronald Searle was a giant in the graphic arts, and wether he knew it or not, he helped modernize popular animation.


  1. Wow... absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing!<3

  2. Should you ever tire of the Searle pieces you own, give me a call...

  3. That is an incredible piece up there with the beach community. If I could add to this tribute. Here is a very touching story, of the magic of his drawings.
    It cemented to me, the fact that drawings capture what you feel and can be felt by the viewer and can never be thought of just something ordinary or less than(ever).


  4. Fantastic. Love it! Searle was genius and quite gifted. :)

  5. Should you ever tire of the Searle pieces you own, give me a call...

  6. one thing that I'm actually regreting is the fact of not knowing sooner about mr. searle, such a shame of my part :(, he was an incredible artist.

    hope he is resting in peace.

  7. Great collection, and great observations. Thanks!

  8. That is so funny before I scrolled down the page I said to myself that that character in the third drawing from the top looks so much like the character George Hautecourt. Thank you for sharing this art and keeping this artist alive for us.

    This is off topic but I just purchased the short film Dream on Silly Dreamer and I loved it. It's always great to get some behind the scenes insight. Are they any other films like this that you recommend?

    1. Brilliant, Andreas! I had never spotted the Searle inspiration for George Hautecourt before.

      As I'm sure you know, in the opening shot of '101 Dalmatians' where Pongo is lazing on the window seat of Roger's house, a couple of magazines are visible on the seat: they are copies of 'Lilliput', to which Searle was a regular contributor and in which the first St Trinians cartoons were published...

  9. Wow, amazing!
    There's just something about these works that makes me smile; I just can't quite put my finger on it...
    What do all of you think? :D

  10. Should you ever tire of UM or Matt J asking about the Searle pieces you own, give me a call...Seriously, though... The pieces are fantastic particularly the Holiday mag spread ( and I love Lucy, too.) Long live Ronald Searle.

    1. I think UM and Matt desperately want to be in my will...
      There are a couple more beautiful originals I will post soon.

  11. Hey Andreas, great stuff!
    But how's your own project coming along?
    Ever since that first post about it I've been anxious for more!

    Ciaoz & greetz;)

  12. Good old Edwin Carp! Now that is a grand drawing!! I had schoolmasters like that...no, really.

  13. Now I immediately think of Harlecourt's voice on top of the dialogue of the old guy from Molesworth. XD
    "Mr Chips? No such character ever existed."

    I can see some Searle influence in some of Milt's more angular work...even though the design is the same, some of Anita's hand actions in scene three of 101 Dalmatians is pure Searle if he was drawing movement.

  14. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EFhWubuiNSo/TwO9f_Y6w-I/AAAAAAAAAxM/xFQMDsC3LZ4/s1600/searle+2.jpg

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  16. Just in case anyone reads this, eight years after this article has been written: there's a very, very fine exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of Ronald Searle in my hometown of Hannover, Germany. It will run till the end of January.

    Here's a link to the website: https://www.karikatur-museum.de/programm/ausstellungen/ronald-searle-100/ (you can switch to the english version in the upper right corner).

    Best regards to all cartoon fans and Andreas especially! Thanks for this great website!

    All the best, Alexander

    P.S.: Yes, the ubiquitous masks are required when visiting the museum. It's very well ventilated, though.