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Ronald Searle: joyeux anniversaire!



It’s today, his birthday.  Coincidentally he lives not far away in the hills of Provence.  And I imagine he and his wife will be joyously toasting the event in their favourite Champagne. Valerie Grove’s recent interview with him for The Times is an illuminating introduction for those who don’t know him – and a splendidly wide-ranging and timely reminder for all of us who do.  Searle is one of the most extraordinarily gifted illustrators and cartoonists of all time. Not only are his line drawings things of crazy beauty in themselves but they’re also telling commentaries on life’s eternal verities. Searle’s deftly elegant lines are extraordinarily expressive – and almost shockingly closely-observed.  No other cartoonist can make me laugh out loud as much and as often as Searle can (as a lifelong devotee of Molesworth, I can vouch for the perfect complementarity – and reliably durable hilarity – of Willan’s words combined with Searle’s drawings).  But Searle is wise, and knows better than most how vitally important it is to be able to identify and depict harmony. Having survived the hell that was life as a POW of the Japanese, Searle earned his right to laugh long and loud at us, at all other people, at life itself – and then go on to dedicate the rest of his life to pursuing the paths opened to him by his astonishing talent.  Anybody in or visiting London between today and 3 April can drop by Chris Beetles’ Gallery, which is hosting a Searle retrospective show. Otherwise, you can treat yourself to Matt Jones’s excellent blog which is entirely dedicated to Searle’s work. Oh, and raise a glass to the great man while you’re about it, why don’t you? Santé, Monsieur Searle!

Update: Ronald Searle died in France on 30 December 2011. I, like other admirers, find it unbelievable that he was not more widely recognised and duly celebrated in his own country – this excellent piece by Harry Mount says it all for me. May Ronald Searle rest in peace.


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