Monday, August 26, 2013

'The Mahogany Tree'

British satirical magazine Punch famously had a table installed at their offices where the subject of the week's political cartoon would be decided.  A seat at the table was strictly reserved for members only but on the 7th April 1953 Searle was the first guest since Mark Twain to be permitted to observe proceedings.  He was later to become the youngest member of the Punch cabal, his beard only just tolerated by the older men!  'At the invitation of the new editor, Malcolm Muggeridge, a self- confessed 'addict' of Searle's work who wished to bind him closer to the magazine' (Russell Davies).

It was customary that each member or guest inscribe their initials into the surface lacquer-and Searle, in typical fashion, etched an elegantly gothic R.S.

The position of Searle's initials on the table can be determined from this diagram from the Punch Cartoons website.  It's at the centre bottom.

On his first lunch at the Punch Table on the first of February 1956 Searle recorded the welcome exended to him and took note of where each were sat at the table:

Alan Agnew: 'The first business is to welcome to the table Ronald Searle.  I'm sure we all hope he will enjoy our company and conversation as much as we shall enjoy having him with us.

A.A. Milne died the night before 'They replaced him quickly' said somebody.
Malcolm M. (Muggeridge) was on the ferry boat delayed from France, Russell (Brockbank) was in the editorial chair.
Basil Boothroyd - I'd like to add my personal congratulations now I'm not the youngest member.'

This last notation reinforces just how conservative the group was:
'First beard at the table since 1901.  The last was E.T. Reed and he was sacked for homosexuality.'

Punch cartoonists Bill hewison and Russell Brockbank are observed in this 1962 Pathe newsreel on the magazine's cartoonists and the table. 

In this video of out-takes the above 1961 cover can be glimpsed on the wall display bottom right

To celebrate this prestigious membership Searle bought himself a handsome 1955 1st edition of Picasso's Graphic Works. (Recently sold on eBay)

In this photo published in Russell Davies' biography of Searle we see James Thurber visit the Punch offices with a young Searle seated next to him on the left.  One of his 'Heroes of Our Time' pictures hangs on the wall beyond him.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Animation pt.2

I've been looking for a stop-motion puppet animated film made by Dutch animation pioneer Joop Geesink in Searle's style for YEARS!  With the 100th anniversary this year of Joop Geesink's birthday a wonderful tribute website has been set up with the co-operation of Geesink's family.  I contacted them about the 'Lemonhart Rum' ad the studio made in the late 50s and they told me they had it and put it online!  So here it is, Searle's characters Mr Lemonhart and Mr Navy Rum vying for the affections of an attractive ice-skater!

As the site observes the spot was probably inspired by this print ad-

Searle, of course had several collaborations with animators.  See his work with British stop-motion animator Ivor Wood here. His work on 'Energetically Yours' is here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Berlin Wall

Ronald Searle's drawings of the  Berlin Wall feature in a new exhibition on the Architecture of War at the Imperial War museum, London.  I believe Searle bore witness to both the construction of the wall and the destruction.

'Die Mauer 3 - Berlin (Berlin Wall) Near the Potsdamer Platz', 7 Oct 61

Within a short distance of the Potsdamer Platz, VOPOS patrol a double barrier of stone and barbed wire. Along this strip of no-mans-land an armoured car stands with guns at the ready. Stockpiles of teargas were at hand for the VOPOS.

'Die Mauer 2 - Berlin (Berlin Wall) East German Volkspolizei', 7 October 1961
Corner of Harzer Strasse. This VOPO guard, annoyed at being under observation, threatened to throw tear gas but was restrained by a West German policeman.

 'Die Mauer 6 - Berlin (Berlin Wall) Waving to relatives in the Eastern Zone' 8 October 1961

 The drawings were published as a reportage spread in Punch magazine

A more humourous observation of the Wall was later drawn for LOOK magazine
"The Rise of New Nationalism in Germany" December 14, 1965
Reprinted in 'From Frozen North to Filthy Lucre'. New York: Viking Press, 1964, Page 59
"Note that Searle has labelled Berlin twice, to make certain we can "read" the gag and perhaps also to show the two faces of Berlin, that of Communist propaganda and that of harsh reality. This was published roughly just after the closing of the New York World's Fair in October of 1965, so the idea of the American international fairground was still quite relevant. The Berlin Wall had been erected in 1961." - Stephen Nadler at Attempted Bloggery

'East Berlin' 1963


Searle depicts 'kontrolle' guards yelling in vain at Beethoven in the pre 1990 German capital Bonn.
(a town where the dogs bark with their tails- apparently!)

© Ronald Searle 1961, by kind permission of the artist and The Sayle Literary Agency