I just learned that the great illustrator Ronald Searle died a few days ago.
The very first time I saw his illustrations was when I was about ten and had been given a second-hand copy of ‘The Terror Of St Trinian’s’.
I was so captivated by his lively, scratchy pen and ink drawings. What was particularly special was the way he imbued each character with so much personality that I really felt I had met each and every one of them. There was such power in every tiny detail. No other book had ever had quite the same effect before - in fact I’m not sure any other illustrator has ever had quite that same effect since. Later, when I went to secondary school (my own version of St Trinian’s), I could have sworn that some of my teachers – and fellow pupils - had walked straight out of the pages of that book.
Much has been written about Searle’s long and productive life elsewhere (and there is so much more to his work than just children’s book illustration) so I won’t cover it here. However I am at least quite chuffed that I studied illustration at the same establishment as he did, at what is now known as Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. They’re very proud of their connection with him there.
Hearing of his death also prompted me to rummage through some of my old books and dig out my tatty paperback of the two stories: ‘The 13 Clocks’ and ‘The Wonderful O’ by James Thurber, which contains some classic Searle illustrations. Here are just a few for your viewing delight.
And for anyone who remembers the Molesworth books, here is a lovely little animation that someone has put together, which perfectly showcases Searle’s fantastic character portrayals.
3rd March 1920 – 30th December 2011