- Also known as
primary name: Searle, Ronald
- individual; painter/draughtsman; sculptor/medallist; British; Male
- Life dates
- Modern cartoonist and medallist; best-known for his drawings of the anarchic St Trinian's schoolgirls (1946-51) and of Nigel Molesworth in the books by Geoffrey Willans; born Cambridge 3 March 1920; studied at the Cambridge School of Art (1935-9) and published his first cartoons in the Cambridge Daily News and Granta; sent to Singapore during the Second World War where he was captured by the Japanese in 1941 and forced to work on the notorious Burma-Siam railway and the bridge on the river Kwai; in 1945 he was liberated from Changi prison in Singapore at the capitulation of Japan. Despite his circumstances and the dangers of being discovered, Searle illicitly drew and recorded his experiences while a prisoner; these were subsequently published as 'To the Kwai - and Back' (1986); many of the poignant drawings are now in the Imperial War Museum. In 1946 he moved to London as a freelance artist and contributed to numerous periodicals, including 'Lilliput' and 'Punch' (1949-62). With his first wife Kaye Webb, he founded Perpetua Press. In 1961 he left his wife and England permanently to live in France with Monica Koenig, a painter, theatre and jewelry designer, whom he later married, settling in the south of France from 1966. He also contributed to many international publications, including 'Life', 'New Yorker', 'Der Spiegel' and 'Le Monde' (since 1995). From 1973 he designed medals for the French mint, including a series of six 'Fathers of Caricature' (1976-77) of Annibale Carracci, Pier Leone Ghezzi, William Hogarth, James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank; the related drawings are in the Department of Prints and Drawings (1983,0625.52-87). He also produced several medals for the British Art Medal Society. In 1996 the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover held a retrospective of Searle's work; it subsequently acquired his collection of historic caricatures and cartoons as well as his library on the history and theory of caricature (see Gisela Vetter-Liebenow, 'Searle & Searle', 2001). In 2000 the British Museum purchased 16 of his famous 'storyboard' drawings first published by Punch in 1954-55, while a group of 14 'rake' portraits drawings for a book edition of his 'Rake's Progress' (published in 1955) was given by the artist at the same time. In 2010 an exhibition of his work celebrating his 90th birthday was held at the Cartoon Art Museum in London.
- P.Attwood, 'Acquisitions of medals (1983-1987)', British Museum Occasional Paper 78, London, 1991
R.Davies, 'Ronald Searle: a biography', London 1990 (re-published 2003 by Chris Beetles)