Through May 11, 2013
Is there a more trenchant yet sympathetic observer of mankind than Ronald Searle? His work is backed up by the unerring eye of one who tasted life at its worst, as a P.O.W. of the Japanese during World War II. Searle survived and moved on, never bitter, to become one of the greatest caricaturists in history, ranked with Hans Holbein the Younger, Thomas Rowlandson, Honoré Daumier and his favorite, Annibale Carracci.
His wit is infused with compassion and a sense of the ridiculous; he brings a visceral delight to life and finds humor, silliness, pathos and absurdity in everything. He took pleasure in his characters: what they do, what they look like, what they desire. Above all, there is joy, never arrogance or flippant irony, that ennui-filled detachment so much in vogue today.
Like the epic authors Anthony Trollope, Henry James and Charles Dickens, Searle was always interested in the human condition. How others see us, how we see others, the brilliance of life’s rainbow, are always at play in a Searle drawing. He also takes a step beyond to that aha! moment that we can all understand and delight in. And behind everything there is a knowing innocence; he is not nasty but he can be sharp, and he is never dull.
This exhibition spans Searle’s wide-ranging career, from his drawings in a Japanese POW camp, to his early success as a magazine and book illustrator, to the enormously popular series of “St. Trinian’s” drawings, to his work for movies and businesses, to his famous drawings of cats. As the French critic Philippe Soupalt wrote, “Take care with Ronald Searle, he is a dangerous man!” It is my humble pleasure to dedicate this show to the late Ronald Searle and to his lovely wife, his muse, Monica.