And other terrible puns, inspired by the latest exhibition at the House of Illustration. This one shows the excellent illustrations of Gerald Scarfe. You will almost certainly recognise his work from the Times and the New Yorker, (although don’t confuse him with Ronald Searle with whom he shares some similarities).
An anarchic vicious, subversive and loose style it is very recognisable and somehow very British. Makes use of some of the tropes of caricature. This show focuses on two elements of his work that I knew less well that of designing for the stage and for screen.
He worked for both the opera and the ballet designing sets and also whole shows. So you have his excellent designs for the Nutcracker complete with terrorist mice and bumptious toy soldiers all made somehow threatening.
In opera there were designs for Orpheus and the Underworld, my favourite of which was the entry into hell consisting of a slide coming out of a ghastly creature’s bottom and into a demon’s mouth. Most amusing.
What I didn’t know, or had forgotten was that Scarfe was artistic director for the Disney film Hercules. Que various designs, concepts and storyboards for the film, including instructions from him on how to draw less Disney and more Scarfe. It is along time since I have seen the film but Hades was always my favourite character and judging by the care and attention lavished on him by Scarfe probably his to. There were sketches in detail showing Hades long jagged arms and a concept of him getting very cross (which he does frequently in the film).
What I really didn’t know was that Scarfe did the animation for the Pink Floyd Film, The Wall. Again you had various concept sketches such as the marching hammers and the Germanic eagle and some clips from the film. As with all such shows one of the most interesting aspect beyond the artistic is showing the thought process of someone grappling with an idea, coming up with the concepts, developing them and then the final finished work. You get to see this a number of times in different context with this exhibition and very interesting it is too.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.