Friday, May 15, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ Ralph Steadman & Gerald Scarfe

 Ralph Steadman self portrait
I set out to post about a cartoonist whose birthday is today, 15 May: Ralph Steadman, born in 1936.

Pondering on some of his work shown at Google Image I was reminded, very strongly, of another English cartoonist's work I'd often seen in newspapers back in the "old country". That cartoonist: Gerald Scarfe. I was never a huge fan of Scarfe's work, his brutal depictions of politicians and "celebs" often made me cringe. His subjects were, in real life, cringe-worthy enough sans embellishment! Ralph Steadman's cartoons have that same savage look and feel. It was interesting to find, therefore, that these two cartoonists came into the world just 15 days and some 225 miles

 Gerald Scarfe self portrait
Steadman's work is probably a little better known in the USA due to his collaborations with American writer Hunter S. Thompson. Scarfe is known for his work on Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album and subsequent movie, some plays, books, ballet, theatre, opera, and as a Sunday Times and New Yorker magazine illustrator.

Reading around I found that, early on in their careers, Steadman and Scarfe were friends. (While paragraph upon paragraph could be written about their relative childhood experiences, education and so forth, I'm concentrating in this post simply on their relationship, falling-out, their similarities and differences.)

While working for the Kemsley Newspaper Group, Steadman became involved with Gerald Scarfe. The two men first met at an early meeting of the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain, which was founded in 1960. “He said, ‘I like your line; I’d like to come see you’”, Steadman recalled: “So he came up one day in his car and he brought his drawings with him and they were awful...commercial art drawings...he showed me these things and said, ‘Can you help?’ I said, ‘I’ll introduce you to my teacher Leslie Richardson.’”

Steadman and Scarfe worked very closely together. As one interviewer noted soon afterwards, Richardson "used to send them to the Victoria and Albert Museum where they would sit sketching statues and suits of armour": "They spent hours together, pacing the streets long into the night, talking about art and the future, and discussing ways of putting the world right." Soon, as Steadman later acknowledged, they had developed “an interchangeability about our styles”: “I know where lots of things came from and he knows where lots of things came from...Neither of us liked to accuse the other that we were copying each other, but you can’t help it when your styles are somehow similar.”

Steadman is happy to be thought of as being in the same line as Gillray and Hogarth. "I feel a part of that tradition - that's what we did, and I say 'we' because I mention Gerald Scarfe quite happily, though he'd never mention me." Why not? "We fell out years ago. We both started out at the same time, and we spent so much time together and what we did was so similar that in a way it was frightening - some people thought we were the same person." Scarfe, it turns out, was godfather to the eldest of Steadman's five children, but he is reluctant to go further into their falling out. Ralph Steadman obviously doesn't like falling out with people.

Detail of the disagreements leading to the break-up of friendship is in a piece HERE. It's a longer quote than I prefer to post, but in the interests of better understanding these two artists, and maybe their astrology.....perhaps the copyright police will be kind:
Steadman and Scarfe had a tacit agreement that they would submit drawings to publications together, and Steadman recalled that "we went to Punch together with our cartoons”. Then, in 1962, Steadman decided to submit a drawing to the newly-launched Private Eye, although Scarfe didn’t have anything ready. “Gerry sort of got upset”, Steadman recalled, “and said, ‘I don’t see why; we said we weren’t going to do anything unless we did it together.’ So I said, ‘Do something.’ He said, ‘No, I can’t.’” Steadman submitted a drawing to Private Eye entitled "Plastic People", for which Richard Ingrams sent him £5 and a note saying "More power to your elbow." "I was the first outsider to get in it", Steadman recalled: "they published it with a double page spread in issue number 11."

“I was thrilled to get into this new weird paper”, Steadman admitted, but the episode caused problems with Scarfe. “I’m really fed up with you”, he reportedly told Steadman, before secretly submitting his own work to Private Eye. It was accepted, and it became clear, as Steadman later acknowledged, that “something had started”. The eventual break came when Steadman’s wife sent Scarfe a letter, accusing him, in Steadman’s words, “of copying and faking everything from me, and now preventing me from submitting my own work”. “I wish she hadn’t sent it”, he remembered: “She asked me, ‘Should I send it?’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t send it, but it’s your letter.’” Scarfe was deply hurt, and the two men “fell out.”

Scarfe’s commercial career took off, whilst Steadman recalled that, in his own career, he “kind of took a side track and started doing my own serious work in a little more esoteric way”. From 1961 to 1965, with Richardson's encouragement, he studied at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts. "I don't make a lot of money", he told an interviewer in 1965: "But I don't mind, I think I'm doing the right thing." He left East Ham Technical College in 1966.

In 1966 Scarfe was recruited by the Daily Mail for a large salary and an E-type Jaguar, and he and Steadman were further estranged. Asked to draw his friend for an article later that year, Steadman produced an image that was half saint and half Superman, but with a disconnected heart. "Scarfe owes his success to me and me to him", he explained, but he refused to say more, adding bitterly that "everything I have to say was in my original drawing of Scarfe being crucified": "Unfortunately that drawing has been censored and replaced with the one you see here." In 1967 Steadman became Artist-in-residence at Sussex University.
In 2013 Steadman explained to an interviewer: "People have said, 'I thought you’d be a nasty piece of work because you’re so dark and trenchant', and I’ve said, 'No I’m not, I’ve got rid of it - it’s all on paper.'" Perhaps the same applies to Gerald Scarfe.

In the brief videos below, surface differences between the two men, personality-wise, become apparent. Steadman comes over, to me, as the more approachable, easy-going fun guy, though not nearly as fluently articulate as Scarfe. Steadman is a northerner, born not far from Liverpool, Scarfe a Londoner. Brits might be able to discern subtle differences from that difference alone. I liked what I heard from both men, in different ways and for different reasons. Deep down, as their astrology attests, there are many similarities.


Ralph Steadman, born 15 May 1936 in Wallesey, Cheshire, UK. Set for 12 noon - time of birth not known.

Gerald Scarfe, born 1 June 1936 in London, UK - set for 12 noon. time of birth not known.

While Steadman's prominent planets straddle the Taurus/Gemini cusp, blending a "feet on the ground" attitude with an innate urge to communicate. Scarfe is all about Gemini, natal Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars all there, close together.

Their natal Moons' positions can't be established exactly without times of birth, but it's safe to say that whatever his time of birth, Ralph Steadman's natal Moon would have been in gentle, imaginative Pisces, while Gerald Scarfe's Moon sign remains less certain, positioned in either Libra or Scorpio.

Both men have natal Jupiter in its sign of rulership, Sagittarius. Planet and sign connect to travel and wide publication. Steadman's work with American writer Hunter S. Thompson, and Scarfe's work for Disney and US publications reflect this placement well.

The outer planets are, of course, in much the same positions for both men. Interesting to note, though, that Uranus in Taurus is conjunct natal Venus and trine Neptune in Steadman's case - blending his occasionally outrageous imaginings, through art, with basic common sense messages. Uranus is still trine Neptune for Scarfe but is semi-sextile Venus and all of his Gemini cluster. A subtle difference here, this is a blend not always as easy and smooth for Scarfe perhaps.

Steadman and Scarfe have Saturn (work/career) harmoniously trining Pluto (hints of darkness) in emotional Water signs. I wonder if this common link is also the source of their falling out?

Without times of birth we can't see the planets' positions as regards important chart angles, ascendant, midheaven and opposite points.

Examples of their work - there is simply too much choice! Google Image will provide more than anyone could possibly digest or desire. I'll post a few examples from each - those which especially appeal to me.
The artists' own websites are well worth a visit.
Ralph Steadman's website

Gerald Scarfe's website

Maggie Thatcher by Ralph Steadman

 Nixon by Steadman

The Pessimists by Ralph Steadman

 By Ralph Steadman, one of many from his book "I Leonardo"
See here - Ralph Steadman's incredible study of Leonardo da Vinci, one of his personal heroes, is full of breath-taking images which turn the artists life into a visual voyage of discovery.

Steadman's take on key moments of Leonardo's life are filled with the genius of his uncontrollable imagination. Humour and pathos, grit and passion fill the pictures.

 Thatcher by Scarfe

 Bush by Scarfe

Scarfe for Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

A Gerald Scarfe magazine cover

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


mike said...

Social-political cartoonists have a different creed and I view their works interpretively, lesser artistically. Their pairing seems to be an ego extension of the other!

Astrologically, with their many similar placements, I think that Scarfe's retrograde Mercury is telling, as he is dominated by Mercury. Very mental and I doubt he had surplus spontaneity, which the typical Gemini is known, and he probably met the world with calculated and planned responses.

Steadman's a Taurus Sun with Venus in its rule can bring a more grounded, practical view, but also a current of self-interest. With Venus trine Neptune, the pleasant surface may not represent the inner desires, even to Steadman's consciousness.

AY&T is here...gotta go...

Twilight said...

mike ~ I was surprised, and rather pleased, to find their birth dates so close, even though their work IS so similar. Astrology strikes again!

I'd not come across Ralph Steadman (not knowingly anyway), but did know Scarfe's work quite well, and never liked it much - Ronald Searle's style is more my cup o' tea.

It's hard to say about personality differences, going only from what we can glean from astrology, interviews and articles. Gerald Scarfe had a childhood blighted by illness, which will have left some mark, I guess.

I'm surprised that they haven't managed to "bury the hatchet" after all this time. Pity!

Hope AT&T fix your connection - your comment today did land in the right place, by the way (not into spam as yesterday).

Anonymous said...

My vote's for Steadman - a wonderful and wonderfully funny man, as evidenced in this short interview. Enjoy!

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Thanks, listened to that. He comes over as a very easy-going and approachable guy. I like his ideas on authority and the state of the world.

Scarfe is also very anti-war - they both are, both were young children in England during world War II - enough to make anyone anti-war! I was just a few years behind them, but share their feelings on many things, as did members of The Beatles - same broad generation.

mike (again) said...

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~

1) lol! Handy!

2) Very creative idea - love it!