Uli & I had another chance last week to visit Ronald Searle & his wife Monica. As last time we had a splendid lunch in their favourite restaurant then the rest of the afternoon back at their place. Monica kept brewing her strong coffee to counter-act the champagne which Ronald kept pouring!
This time we were privileged to be permitted access to the inner sanctum of chéz Searle. Few are allowed to see his studio & study but his work & sketchbooks were due to be shipped off to the Wilhelm Busch museum in Hanover where his archive is held. Ronald gave us a real treat & let us look at anything we fancied-he really is the most generous 'world's greatest living cartoonist' that I know!
Of course Ronald's collection of his own books is incomparable-he has all editions (plus proof/copy versions)in mint condition. There were several that I'd never even heard of.
Seeing the 'top-shelf' was nirvana for these dedicated Searle fans-a lifetime of sketchbooks! Last time we browsed his Scrooge and Monte-Carlo books but here were the rest-Morocco, Palm Springs, Hawaii, Dublin, Germany-all the original notes & drawings Searle made for the HOLIDAY magazine reportage.
It was all we could do to flip through as many as possible, Searle graciously letting us photograph anything we wanted. Naturally we couldn't get everything-between carrying on the conversation with Ronald and Monica, climbing up & down the step-ladder & the effects of the champagne-it was tough to focus! I'll be putting the rest of the photos up on the Searle blog soon.
Researching Searle I'd struggled to find 'A Step In The Jungle' a documentary made by the BBC in the 70s. Luckily Ronald possesses a copy on VHS and we were able to watch it with him adding commentary-
Monica too has her own collection of her husband's work & was very pleased to share with us her 'Mrs Mole' drawings. A special series of over 40 pictures that Ronald made for her every time she was ill. She would always awake to find another depiction of a day in the life of Mrs Mole- Monica herself in fact-easing the misery of her illness.
It was an honour & very touching to see these personal drawings. They're very charming, lovingly crafted and infused with the Searles devotion to each other.
Once again regretfully it was time to leave the Searles in their cosy little house in deepest Provence. Monica told us the bicycle in Searle's work is symbolic of happiness. With Ronald approaching his 90th birthday in March they're still going strong & the finest people to spend a Saturday afternoon with.