Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ronald Searle the Great Part 5 - In France

Article by JMB
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Kaye Webb, Ronald Searle’s wife, is a journalist. In the late '40s, her press reports duly illustrated by her husband were well known and appreciated. A wise editor asked the couple what project would personally please them most for a book to be published. Their shared answer was Paris. So they spent working holidays in the city in May 1950; and the book Paris Sketchbook was launched by The Saturn Press in the next Christmas season.

A revised and enlarged edition of Paris Sketchbook was published by Perpetua Books, in London in 1957. This book was republished in the USA by George Braziller in 1958.

In 1949 Punch nominated Searle to its theatre column. He suited so well to the job that he kept it for twelve years. He made frequent trips to Paris, as Punch also reviewed Paris theater new plays.

A collection of these Paris theater drawings was exhibited at Gallery Martine Gossieaux, from September 21st to December 9th 2000. Its sumptuous catalogue: Le théâtre à Paris (1954-1962) was printed as a 500 copies limited edition. The cover drawing shows Pierre Brasseur as "Ornifle" in the eponymous play in 1955.

At left: Bernard Blier and Edwige Feuillère in the play "Lucy Crown" in 1962. At right: Louis de Funès in the play "La Grosse Valse" in 1962

Ronald Searle definitely left England and his wife. He arrived in Paris on September 10th 1961 and settled at Monica Koenig-Stirling’s. She was a British born artist, ballet and theatre designer. Searle met her for the first time in 1958, during one of his stays in Paris for Punch theatre column. As soon as Searle’s divorce was officially recorded, Monica became his second wife in June 1967.

Pardong M’sieur was published by Editions Denoël in Paris in early 1965. These Searle’s cartoons humorously lampoon the French way of life.

For Reader’s Digest, Searle illustrated an abridged version of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris which was first published as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in the USA in 1966, and then republished by the French branch in 1968.

Hommage à Toulouse-Lautrec was published by Editions Empreinte in Paris in 1969. Roland Topor wrote a preface for it. The printing was 4000 copies, plus 200 numbered and signed copies printed on Vélin d’Arches paper. Those ones had an original set of 4 lithographs. An extra portfolio of 6 other lithographs was added to the 70 first copies.

Titled The Second Coming of Toulouse-Lautrec, this book was republished by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in London in 1970. The German version: Die Wiederkehr des Toulouse-Lautrec, was republished by Verlag Kurt Desch in Munich in 1971. The book Die Mädchen von Montmartre und St. Pauli, that was published by Rowohlt in Hamburg in 1980, contains some of these drawings.

Searle was always interested in the work of his fellow graphic artists. After reading the first issue of Haute Societé, a sophisticated French quarterly magazine containing many cartoons, he wrote: “I wish we had a magazine like it here!” His drawing and sentence were published in the next issue in September 1960.

Searle joined the "Société Protectrice de l’Humour" [Society for the Protection of Humor] founded by Desclozeaux with Puig Rosado and Bonnot. From 1969 he participated in the cartoon exhibitions the S.P.H. organized in Avignon. In 1969 he asked the French cartoonist Bosc to sell him one cartoon. Bosc answered he would prefer to receive a drawing from the book Filles de Hamburg and he sent his latest book out of which he could choose the one he liked best. Searle offered him a new work, made after his original drawings, explaining that his girls were drawn in a sketchbook he couldn’t tear a page off. Searle and his wife Monica chose the cartoon published page 72-73 in Bosc book Je t’aime.

In July 1971 Searle received two awards: the "Prize of Humour S.P.H" and the "Avignon City Medal". A few months later, he received the "Great Prize for Black Humour / Grandville". In 1972 he was awarded the "Prize Charles Huard for Press Cartoons". In the same year, crowning these French distinctions, the Bibliothèque Nationale [National Library] invited him to show a personal retrospective at the Cabinet des Estampes in 1973. Of course Searle agreed and became the first non-French living artist to be honored that way by this institution. Unfortunately, for economical reasons, the B.N. suggested that the catalog was just a list on sheets of paper. Searle’s cartoonist friend Jean-Pierre Desclozeaux was outraged, and so as to have a proper, fully illustrated and well documented catalog printed, he founded the association "Les Amis de Ronald Searle" [Searle’s Friends] which collected funds and brought life to this book. 259 works were on display at the B.N. from January 26th to late March 1973.

The drawing reproduced on the front cover of the catalogue (here above) is one the three works stolen during the exhibition. The Bibliothèque Nationale having failed to insure itself against such troubles was obliged to acquire these works from the artist, who thus came to be officially “represented in the Bibliothèque Nationale”, as he later put it, “by three phantom pictures”.

First published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in New York and by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in London in 1977, Paris! Paris! is a novel size book co-signed by the American novelist Irwin Shaw and by Ronald Searle. But this book was not done in collaboration at all. It may be described as a mere simultaneity of two points of view, since Shaw’s text is an awkward mixture of clichés and self-serving anecdotes, whereas Searle’s drawings are always humorously relevant and clever.
Paris! Paris! was translated into French and published by Editions Plon in Paris in November 1977. The foreword of this edition precisely states: “Mr. Searle did not read my text until he sends his drawings, and I told him about his contribution after his drawings delivery”.

Paris! Paris! was translated into German by Katharina Ronte and published by Fritz Molden in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 1980. It was then published as a pocketbook in Germany by Wilhelm Heyne in 1982, and by Goldmann in 1986.

Disappointed by the promiscuity he had to undergo in Paris! Paris!, Searle wanted to edit his drawings in a personal book in a larger format. These works appear in Ah Yes, I Remember it Well....: Paris, 1961-75, published by Pavilion Books in London in 1987 and published by Salem House in the USA in 1988. Titled Ah oui, je m’en souviens très bien… Paris 1961-1975, it was published by Editions Albin Michel in Paris in 1988. About these drawings, the artist said they wished "to get what one feels when living in Paris, rather than what one can imagine about it."

This cityscape of Paris, published on the endpapers, is a composite creation by the artist. A large number of his friends are saluted by name here. Among them are the French graphic artists Desclozeaux, Puig Rosado, Topor, André François, Claude Favard (aka Bonnot), and Tim; German graphic artists Loriot and H.G. Rauch; printer lithographer and gallery owner Michel Cassé; writers Michel Ragon, Remo Forlani, and Pierre Bourgeade; journalist Mary Blume; showmen, Jacques Fabri and Pierre Etaix; medical professor Léon Schwartzenberg, an oncologist who treated Searle’s wife (here she too is mentioned as Mô, her nickname); director of the French Mint Pierre Dehaye; owner of the Restaurant des Beaux-Arts Marcelle Methlin.

On September 10th 1975, Searle and his wife definitely left Paris and settled in Tourtour, a calm village in the mountains of Provence.

The book Carnet de croquis [Sketchbook], subtitled "The Pleasure of the Line", was published by Editions La Nompareille in Paris in 1992. It is an intimate vision of the artist's work. For the reader, Searle leaves his studio’s door ajar. He rightly says in his preface: “A perfect successful drawing, must give the feeling it was done effortlessly. It is the visible part of the iceberg. These pages show a fraction of the mass lying below.”

In 1995, Searle was offered the opportunity of contributing editorial drawings to the French national newspaper Le Monde. 114 of these drawings are gathered in the book Ronald Searle dans Le Monde published by Le Cherche Midi Editeur in Paris in 1998.

At right, the above cartoon refers to the death of a 17 year man, of Comorian origin, who was shot by three National Front billposters in Marseilles on February 21st 1995. It is the only drawing with an additional color in this book.

As well as few other cartoons, these four drawings will not be reprinted in the book published in the USA four years later.

Ronald Searle in Le Monde was published by University of Chicago Press in 2002. This book has the same size and lay-out. Its sections are similar: Politics, Europe, Africa, Other Countries, Money, Society Games, War and Peace, Some Angels. But the preface (3 pages) and the Epilogue section with 5 drawings does not exist in the French edition.

In his foreword, Searle wrote about Le Monde: “Drawings for this space are not solicited. There is no editorial pressure or guidance. It is left to the artist to seek and express his point of view. The editor either accepts it or returns the drawing. It is a tough exercise and a challenging one. Fortunately the effort involved remains hidden from the reader – but not the point of view.”

We have chosen to show these cartoons as they are not in the French book. Out of the 127 drawings of this American edition, 30 were not published in the French edition

See you soon with Ronald Searle and all his various and famous animals

article by JMB

We thank Mr. Alain Damman for his kind permission to reproduce those two documents from Bosc’s archives here.

1 comment:

Li-An said...

Thanks for this article. It gives me a good introduction on Searle’s work in Paris.