Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ronald Searle: Cat Book Preliminary Sketch

Ronald Searle's preliminary sketch is for a "cat book" that today we know as Searle's Cats. It was published in 1967, the very year of this drawing. By the time of publication, each of the book's cat images was to acquire a descriptive title describing the quirky cats and their various particular attributes. This copiously-whiskered kitty, of course, didn't make the cut, but the book itself ushered in a new and more whimsical chapter in Searle's career.

Ronald Searle
Cat Book Preliminary Sketch, 1967

Ronald Searle
Bonhams, Sale 18737—Modern Pictures—January 25, 2011 Knightsbridge, Lot 197

Note:  So where can we learn more about Searle's cats today? Searle's own cat books would still be the logical place to start.

There are two distinct editions of Searle's Cats (1967 and 1987) plus a full set of lithographs roughly contemporaneous with the earlier edition. As stated above, the 1967 edition is the "cat book" for which the above preliminary sketch was made. All the versions are quite wonderful, as are Searle's many later cat drawings. The 1987 edition of Searle's Cats was singled out in 2014 by Maria Popova on Brain Pickings.

I can also offer my highest recommendation to More Cats (1975) and Ronald Searle's Big Fat Cat Book (1982). And by then you'll simply have to hunt down a copy of every other Searle book...

What does Perpetua, the Ronald Searle Tribute blog, have to say on the subject of Searle's cats? Not all that much, surprisingly. Matt Jones, taking a cue it seems from Searle himself, has never given the cats their due, but he does post on the subject (just a little begrudgingly) in Cats! In contrast, he lavishes a lot more attention on Searle's Dogs.

Nothing dampened Searle's enthusiasm like overwhelming success. His American agent, John Locke, told me decades ago that Searle was frustrated by the narrow tastes of the market regarding his original lithographs. Searle had complained that only his cat lithographs sold well; the other editions didn't do nearly as much business. Hence I can confirm secondhand that Searle came to feel somewhat trapped by the commercial success of his felines, a success that, beginning in 1976, I was a party to.

Attempted Bloggery continues to seek out examples of published and unpublished original art by Ronald Searle. Cats—and even dogs—are equally welcome.

Quick Links to the Attempted Bloggery Archives

Ronald Searle

Searle's Cats


Attempted Bloggery's Pussyfooting Index


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