The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Searle

A collection of illustrations from the Collection of Robert and Lydia Forbes


“Well done, Elspeth – It was Deadly Nightshade” – Ronald Searle, 1950

“Is there a more trenchant yet sympathetic observer of mankind than Ronald Searle? His work is backed up by the unerring eye of one who has tasted life at its worst, as a prisoner of war (POW) of the Japanese during World War II. Searle survived and moved on, never bitter, to become one of the greatest caricaturists in history, ranked with Hans Holbein the Younger, Thomas Rowlandson, Honoré Daumier and his favorite, Annibale Carracci.

His wit is infused with compassion and a sense of the ridiculous; he brings a visceral delight to life and finds humor, silliness, pathos and absurdity in everything. He takes pleasure in his characters: what they do, what they look like, what they desire. Above all, there is joy, never arrogance or flippant irony, that ennui-filled detachment so much in vogue today.” – Robert Forbes

The selection of Ronald Searle works from the Collection of Robert and Lydia Forbes currently on display in the Homer Babbidge Library is surely a treat for the eyes and the mind. 

Let's Have a Bite. The Zoo VIP. Ronald Searle
Let’s Have a Bite. The Zoo VIP – Ronald Searle

In the Plaza Gallery you’ll be delighted by the remarkable collaboration of Searle and Forbes in “A Collaboration of Imaginations”. The exhibit includes images from three published books, BEASTLY FEASTS! A Mischievous Menagerie in Rhyme; LET’S HAVE A BITE! A Banquet of Beastly Rhymes; and BEAST FRIENDS FOREVER! Animal Lovers in Rhyme.  Also included are three drawings by Searle that are part of a larger portfolio of illustrations for a yet to be published book by Robert Forbes.  This would be the fourth collaboration between Searle and Forbes and we are thankful to have and opportunity to see them before anyone else!

In the Norman D. Stevens Gallery you’ll find works that span Searle’s wide-ranging career, from his drawings in a Japanese POW camp, to his early success as a magazine and book illustrator, to the enormously popular series of “St. Trinian’s” drawings, to his work for movies and businesses, to his famous drawings of cats. As the French critic Philippe Soupalt wrote, “Take care with Ronald Searle, he is a dangerous man!”

Ronald Searle died at the age of 91 in December, 2011 and the show is dedicated by Robert Forbes to Ronald and to his lovely wife, his muse, Monica.

Mr. Lemon Hart, Old and New Theme - Ronald Searle
Mr. Lemon Hart, Old and New Theme – Ronald Searle


Curators: Cora Lynn Deibler, Department Head for the Art & Art History Department and Alison Paul, Assistant Professor of Illustration/Animation, School of Fine Arts.

Thank you to Robert and Lydia Forbes for this wonderful opportunity and Bonnie Kirschstein and Elizabeth Marwell from The Forbes Collection for their help in making this happen. 

The exhibit is open from October 25, 2016 to February 10, 2017.  Please join us for a special reception and gallery talk on Monday, November 28th at 6:30pm.