The first Monday back from campus after this Thanksgiving break, students got to know the late, famous illustrator, Ronald Searle.
Those who partook in the event were warmly greeted by curators Alison Paul, a professor of illustration and animation at UConn, and Cora Lynndiebler, department head of the fine arts, on the ground floor of Homer Babbidge Library. Attendees were ushered into Norman Stevens Gallery shortly after 6:30 p.m. Guests consisting of students, locals and professors were welcomed to a small table with a diverse spread of meats, cheeses, vegetables and other charcuterie, along with an open bar with various wines and beers for the guests to sip on as they admired and learned more about Searle.
Students may have seen Searle’s works recently displayed in the lobby gallery of the Babbidge Library. The colorful and lively creations were exhibited to pique the interest of students who routinely stroll through the library halls. The images displayed were from the children’s books that were some of his most recent works in collaboration with poet and animal lover, Robert Forbes, who was one of the guest speakers at the event.
Ronald Searle has a unique and extremely influential style of ink and watercolor that has inspired many illustrators of the modern age as well as new artists and illustrators that were in attendance. Modern artists include Mark Burrier, illustrator for Flying Dog brewery.
“I didn’t know Searle’s work personally, but when I saw his illustrations, I immediately could feel the influence he has had on art that I had seen before,” Austin MacDonald, a fifth-semester illustration major, said.
The vast majority of Searle’s work and what seems to be his medium of preference is pen and ink. He caught the attention of many publishers from an early start in the 60s.
Searle’s work would often depict people in a specific setting, portraying a specific message, whether it was an ad in Holiday magazine for a destination like Casablanca, or a commercial ad for Shell gasoline.
“Searle had a skill for social commentary in a single image with no dialogue. To tell a story with a single frame of art is very difficult and he certainly had a gift for it,” Troy Brice, a photography student in his fifth-semester, said.
Searle’s work has often been associated with that of satire.
“He had no fear when it came to poking fun at public figures. He was unafraid to skewer politician as well as other prominent figures in film and theatre,” Forbes said in a brief introduction to the gallery. “His work was very satirical, but they way he did it was unique. He had an eye for taking an image and not making things or people look funny, but rather experiencing these things as being funny. Ron really understood the fun of life, and what beauty was all about.”
Being named one of the most talented illustrators of the 20th century, there is no doubt that Searle’s presence will be felt in the art world for generations to come.
Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.