After parties for Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day and all the other reasons people can come up with to overindulge, the cats and I are CATatonic!  We have wrapped presents and unwrapped presents, entertained ourselves (and others!) with balls of wrapping paper, explored gift boxes, and munched many a treat.  We are now desperate for a long cat nap.

This Ronald William Fordham Searle “Party Cat” drawing of a self-satisfied cat resting in the windowsill, presumably after a round of holiday parties, perfectly captures my frame of mind.  A similar version of this work with the addition of a wreath in the window was featured in the December 28, 1992 issue of The New Yorker magazine.  Searle began drawing cartoons and illustrating covers for The New Yorker magazine in the 1960s and designed over 40 covers for the widely popular magazine during his 30 year tenure.

Searle was considered one of the best satirical draftsman of the 20th Century.  Working in the tradition of 18th Century British artists and social critics William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson (See Caticons – Stray Cats coming soon to our website www.caticons.info  and “The Drowsy Boy and Watchful Cat, Caticons page 136 ),  Searle’s drawing style and acerbic wit influenced other humorists including Matt Groening, the designer of the TV cartoon The Simpsons.  In addition to drawing for the New Yorker, he contributed cartoons to the New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune.

Born in 1920 to a working-class English family, Searle, who was left-handed, began drawing at age five and obtained a job at age fifteen drawing one cartoon a week for the Cambridge Evening News.  He studied at the Cambridge School of Art before joining the Royal Engineers in World War II to work as a camouflage artist.  Captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, he was forced to work in a labor camp building the Burma-Siam railway.  Risking death, he recorded his experiences in graphically detailed sketches which he hid under cholera victims.  These works, now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London, testified to his ability to create serious works.

After the war, Searle became famous for his collection of humorous cartoons, Hurrah for St. Trinian’s (1948), about the unruly girls in a boarding school.  His other books include the Molesworth (1953-1959) series and Searle’s Cats (1967).  He also designed for such films such as Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines and the cartoon Dick Deadeye, or Duty Done.  His flowing drawings influenced the cartoonists working on Disney’s animated film 101 Dalmatians.

After working as a Punch theater artist from 1949 until 1962, he left England to live in France, where he created political illustrations for Le Figaro Littéraire and Le Monde.  In 1973, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris held an exhibit of his work, a rare accolade for a non-French artist, and he was inducted into the Légion d’Honneur in 2006.  His archives are held in the Wilhelm Busch Museum Hannover (Germany).

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