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Today, art lovers world wide are lamenting the sad news that the much-admired, much-imitated, much-decorated British cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle has died. A family statement said:
Ronald William Fordham Searle, born 3 March 1920, passed away peacefully in his sleep with his children, Kate and John, and his grandson, Daniel, beside him on 30 December 2011 in Draguignan, France, after a short illness.
He requested a private cremation with no fuss and no flowers.
In an article published on the guardian.co.uk site on Tuesday 9 March 2010, cartoonist Steve Bell summarized Searle’s accomplishment as follows:
What marks Searle’s work out is genuine wit, intelligence and unabashed ambition. He is our greatest living cartoonist, with a lifelong dedication to his craft unequalled by any of his contemporaries. His work is truly international, yet absolutely grounded in the English comic tradition. It is the highest form of conceptual art, but devoid of any of the pretence that usually accompanies such a notion. Which is to say it is extremely funny, but not all the time. It cuts to the essence of life.
“At the Cambridge School of Art it was drummed into us that we should not move, eat, drink or sleep without a sketchbook in the hand. Consequently, the habit of looking and drawing became as natural as breathing.”
— Ronald Searle
Searle’s caption for the above drawing is typically blunt:
“More clowns, more wide-eyed children, and more phoneys to the square metre than any other public place in Europe (Saint Tropez compris). La Place du Tertre, Montmartre — artistic rubbish dump of Paris — and two born every minute to keep it thriving.”
Ronald Searle’s most recent book, Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole, is a collection of the drawings Searle created for his wife each time she underwent chemotherapy for her breast cancer, “to cheer every dreaded chemotherapy session and evoke the blissful future ahead.” Mrs. Searle died in July 2011.