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Ronald Searle, the British cartoonist and caricaturist whose outlandishly witty illustrations for books, magazine covers, newspaper editorial pages and advertisements helped define postwar graphic humor, died on Friday in Draguignan, in southeastern France, where he lived. He was 91.
His family said in a statement that he had died in his sleep after a short illness.
Searle is among my most favorite artists for his searing wit and his extremely unique styling. One can only dream, as an artist, to be so distinctive that your line work tells the viewer who you are. The community of illustration has lost a giant bridge from one era to the next, a man whose work defines a moment in time yet remains timeless
Lampooning the foibles of the English class system as well as clerics, politicians and even other artists, Mr. Searle was often described as a latter-day version of the 18th-century British graphic satirist William Hogarth. His cartoons combined an ear for linguistic nuance with a caustic pen and brush. With just a few well-placed lines, he pierced the facades of his targets without resorting to ridicule or rancor.
“His ability to draw in a variety of styles allowed him to master all forms of graphic art,” the caricaturist Edward Sorel said.
Yet his signature method, a curious mix of minimalist detailing and rococo flourishes using a vibrant watercolor palette, exuded a modern air — sometimes realistic, other times abstract, occasionally phantasmagoric — more reminiscent of the German expressionist George Grosz than Hogarth and his other British antecedents.