Cartoonist Ronald Searle dies at 91

 

St Trinian's cartoonist Ronald Searle has died aged 91, his family said today.

Searle, whose drawings of the anarchic girls' school inspired a series of films, died at home in France.

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."

Searle was born in Cambridge and started drawing at the age of five, selling his first sketch at 15.

He learned his trade in the city before the Second World War intervened and he joined up.

Searle was serving in the Royal Engineers when he sold his first St Trinian's cartoon in 1941.

That same year he was captured during the fall of Singapore and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Japanese, surviving malaria and vicious beatings by the guards.

His graphic drawings of the horrors of camp life were later published, but it was the exploits of the girls of St Trinian's that made him a household name.

They inspired a series of books and films and survived his attempt to kill them off by blowing up the fictitious school with a bomb.

The latest St Trinian's film was released two years ago and starred Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding.

Searle, who moved to France in 1961, was prolific and continued to draw as well as paint, design medals and work as an animator.

Searle also illustrated the best-selling Molesworth books set in another fictional school - St Custard's - and populated by a similarly gruesome cast.

Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe paid tribute to Searle, whom he described as his "hero".

He said: "He was clever and he was funny and he could draw. A lot of cartoonists come up with an idea first but Ronald could really draw.

"He was an extraordinary man. He was in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and survived all that and kept drawing, which gives you an idea of what an extraordinarily strong-willed person he was."

Scarfe said that when he was a young artist, he regularly cycled to Searle's home in west London to ask his advice but never summoned up the courage to speak to him.

He said: "I couldn't bring myself to ring his doorbell - it was like some kind of mental block - and I would end up cycling home with all these questions I meant to ask him.

"Many years later, my wife arranged a secret lunch for me and Ronald in Provence where he lived. I remember walking into this very small restaurant and there at the table were Ronald and his wife.

"There was a small box with a little bow around it at my place at the table and I opened and it was a bell with a small note saying 'Please ring anytime'."

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell said Searle's work stood out for its "genuine wit, intelligence and unabashed ambition".

Writing in 2010 ahead of an exhibition of Searle's work, Bell said: "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."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'