Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ronald Searle: Cats at the Ballet

Ronald Searle published a volume of expressive ballet drawings in 1946. The one reproduced here shows his concern for form, contour, balance, and tension. He was skilled at figure drawing, but his early realistic books proved financially unsuccessful, and he spent much of the rest of his long career producing humorous illustrations.

Four of Searle's humorous cat drawings with a ballet theme were sold at Christie's South Kensington between 2005 and 2009. They are not dated and were not published prior to the auctions, but they may well have been created some five decades after this figurative drawing of a ballerina, give or take a few years.

Searle's much later cat drawings are as far removed from the ballerina drawing as one can imagine, too far for any useful comparison. They are uniquely whimsical; indeed they possess a stylistic individuality scarcely hinted at in the ballerina drawing. They transcend the typical limits of the cartooning genre and project energy, humor, and even poetry that are hard to find in any medium. If one didn't know, don't think one would surmise they came from the same hand as the realistic ballerina drawing.

Ronald Searle, "Ballerina" from Le Nouveau Ballet Anglais, Paris, Montbrun, 1946

Ronald Searle, Night Bird

Ronald Searle, Things That Go Bump in the Night

Ronald Searle, Dreams of Glory

Ronald Searle, Entre-Chats

The auction sale results below are all from Christie's:

Note:  An exciting exhibition of Ronald Searle's reportage work for the U.S. magazine market is coming later this year to the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. The animation community has contributed most generously to an eBay fundraiser for the "Searle in America" show. Check it out here.

The Searle in America blog is dedicated to this exhibition as well as the eBay fundraiser and can be seen here.

Perpetua, the Ronald Searle tribute blog, is your source for everything about Ronald Searle. See it here.

Finally, there are my own Searle posts located here. Jackpot!


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