Ronald Searle, creator of St. Trinians and Molesworth and one of the great cartoonists of his generation, died December 30th at age 91, it’s being reported. Searle lived a dramatic early life:
Searle began drawing at the age of five. Leaving school at 15, his talent was quickly spotted by the Cambridge Daily News where he worked as a cartoonist, also working for an earlier incarnation of Granta magazine and studying as an art scholar until the war intervened and he enlisted in the Royal Engineers. In 1942 he was captured by the Japanese in Singapore, spending the war as a prisoner at Changi and working on the infamous Burma railway. He recorded his time as a prisoner of war in drawings, preserving them at great risk. His first St Trinian’s cartoon was also drawn in Changi.
“I desperately wanted to put down what was happening, because I thought if by any chance there was a record, even if I died, someone might find it and know what went on,” Searle told the Guardian’s cartoonist Steve Bell, who described the artist as “our greatest living cartoonist, with a lifelong dedication to his craft unequalled by any of his contemporaries”, in 2010.
His creation of the mischievous schoolgirls of St. Trinian’s is his best known contribution, but his combination of the elegant cartoon line with a briskly acerbic slash was hugely influential from Gerald Scarfe on down.
Many are linking to this Ronald Searle blogspot for more examples of his peerless art.
Searle drew the above in his later years, as a daily drawing to help his wife get through chemotherapy sessions. The drawings were collected as Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole, published last year.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.