Gerald Scarfe is a world renowned British political cartoonist and caricaturist. In 1966 he was the first cartoonist since the Victorian era to openly portray and ridicule the British monarch. His notability among the general public rose thanks to his work for Pink Floyd, particularly their cult movie 'Pink Floyd: The Wall' (1982), which featured his animated sequences. Fans of British comedy might recognize his style from the opening credits of the sitcom 'Yes Minister' (1980-1984) and its follow-up 'Yes, Prime Minister' (1986-1988). Last but not least the graphic look of the Walt Disney film 'Hercules' (1997) was inspired by his style.

Early life and career
Gerald Scarfe was born in St. John's Wood, London, in 1936. His father was a banker. Bed-ridden by a severe case of asthma Scarfe felt isolated and anxious as a boy. He was given very strong medication, like ephedrine, which often caused hallucinations. It made him aware from a very young age that life was fragile and frightening. To keep himself sane and occupied he started drawing and making plasticine models to deal with these fears. His main inspirations were Francis Bacon, Ronald Searle, William Hogarth, Saul Steinberg, George Grosz, Max Beerbohm, Honoré Daumier, Pablo Picasso, André François, Al Hirschfeld and Walt Disney. He studied at Saint Martin's School of Art, London College of Printing and East Ham Technical College in London and worked as an advertiser before finding more joy as a newspaper cartoonist. Scarfe provided caricatures and illustrations for magazines such as Private Eye, Punch, The Evening Standard, The Daily Sketch, The Sunday Times, Time and The Daily Mail. In 1981 he married Jane Asher, who was formely famous as the wife of Beatle Paul McCartney. 

Margaret Thatcher by Gerald Scarfe
Margaret Thatcher by Gerald Scarfe

Caricaturing and controversy
His pointy, often monstrously grotesque caricatural style combines a knack for expressive line drawing while trying to capture the personalities of the politicians he targets. They have therefore always been controversial from the start. One of Scarfe's first commissions in 1964 was making a drawing of aging Prime Minister and war hero Winston Churchill in the House of Commons. Scarfe was shocked to see "a shambling senile wreck of a man", which the media had carefully hidden from the public. He nevertheless drew him as he really looked at that stage, convinced that The Times would never publish it. They didn't, but when Peter Cook, editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, saw the drawing he instantly put it on the front page of its next issue! In 1966 Scarfe created a controversial cartoon, depicting queen Elizabeth II riding a horse. The horse - representing the U.K. - is tethered down by a long vine, grown all over its legs. Her saddle is the British flag, with the American Stars 'n' Stripes stitched over it. On her chest one can read the slogan "Britain for Sale", summarizing Scarfe's feelings about how the U.S.A. dominated the U.K. The cartoon led to countless angry letters, but also broke a half a century old taboo against critical depictions of the British monarch.

Scarfeland, by Gerald Scarfe
Caricature of PLO leader Yasser Arafat

On 27 January 2013 Scarfe caricatured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paving a wall with corpses of Palestinian civilians, while the banner read: "Israeli elections - will cementing peace continue?" The cartoon happened to be published on Holocaust Memorial Day, which caused a lot of controversy from certain Jewish organisations. Yet the decision to publish this cartoon on that date was taken by the editor of The Sunday Times, not Scarfe, and even he wasn't aware of the coincidental date. Once Scarfe was personally confronted by Labour politician Denis Healey, who aggressively pointed at his own teeth and insisted that they "weren't as big as you draw them". 

One time Scarfe was actually saved by his own talent. In the mid 1960s he and priest Danilo Dulci were in Sicily to join a march against the Mafia. As they walked through the streets the cartoonist was suddenly surrounded by a group of mobsters. In an instinctive reaction Scarfe explained to them that he worked for a newspaper, grabbed pencil and paper and made a portrait of the gang leader. The mob boss felt so flattered that the tension dissolved and they could continue their walk without any further trouble. 

Radio and TV work.
In the second season of the British drama TV series 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin' (1976-1979) the title character opens a shop called Grot, of which the logo was designed by Scarfe. The opening titles of the classic British sitcoms 'Yes Minister' (1980-1984) and 'Yes Prime Minister' (1986-1988) were animated by him too, featuring caricatures of the three main actors. In 2013 Scarfe became the host of the BBC Radio 4 show 'Recycled Radio', which reuses archive audio footage and edits it together in witty new combinations. 

Pink Floyd's Hammers
The iconic hammers from Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'

Pink Floyd
The general public knows Scarfe best as an animator for the British rock band Pink Floyd. His animated short 'A Long Drawn Out Trip' (1971) drew the attention of the group's members. The 18-minute cartoon featured surreal imagery, most of it poking fun at American symbols and icons. In one memorable sequence Mickey Mouse lights a joint and transforms into a stoned hippie. The soundtrack featured snippets from Jimi Hendrix and Neil Diamond. In 1973 Pink Floyd members Rogers Waters and David Gilmour happened to watch a TV broadcast of this cartoon late at night on the BBC and instantly decided to contact Scarfe. He drew a caricature for the comic book that came with the band's 1974-1975 tour (which also featured artwork by Richard Evans, Joe Petagno, Paul Stubbs, Colin Elgie and Dave Gale), and a series of animations for their 1977 'In The Flesh' tour in support of their 'Animals' album, complete with a music video for their song 'Welcome to the Machine'. He illustrated the inside cover of their 1979 album 'The Wall', and provided the animation segments for the 1980 stage show and 1982 film adaptation: 'Pink Floyd: The Wall'. The animation segments of this cult film, particularly the marching hammers, have become iconic. In 'The Simpsons' episode 'D'oh-in' in the Wind' (1998) by Matt Groening, Ned Flanders hallucinates under the influence of peyote and sees various rock logos marching across the street, among them the bears Melody and Verse, Rich Uncle Skeleton (The Grateful Dead), the marching hammers (Pink Floyd) and the lips-and-tongue logo (The Rolling Stones). Scarfe also provided artwork for Pink Floyd member Roger Waters' solo album 'The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking' (1984). In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, which prompted Waters to perform 'The Wall' live in Berlin in June 1990, with participation of Scarfe and a host of guest performers. For those interested in Scarfe's work for Pink Floyd, the book 'The Making of Pink Floyd: The Wall' (2010) collects all of his artwork. 

Pink Floyd by Gerald Scarfe
The members of Pink Floyd, as seen by Scarfe in 1974: Richard Wright, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Nick Mason

Opera
Scarfe designed various opera sets, mostly for classic operas like W.A. Mozart's 'The Magic Flute', Jacques Offenbach's 'Orpheus in the Underworld', Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker' but also an adaptation of Roald Dahl's childrens novel 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox'.

Hercules
In 1997 Scarfe also worked as a conceptual artist on the Walt Disney animated feature 'Hercules'. The directors, Ron Clements and Jon Musker were fans of his work and felt it resembled the artwork on ancient Greek vases. The artist made about 700 drawings which the Disney animators used as graphic inspiration, which is particularly notable in the characters Hades, Hydra and various demons and monsters. Critical reception was however mixed, since some viewers felt the Scarfesque look derived too far from the Disney trademark style, while fans of Scarfe felt it was watered down too much.

Legacy and influence
In 1998 the Royal Mail brought out five commemorative postage stamps which honoured five British comedians. Rather than go for a realistic depiction of these people Scarfe designed five caricatures of Peter Cook, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Joyce Grenfell and Eric Morecambe. In 2003 the National Portrait Gallery and BBC Four held an exhibition, 'Heroes and Villains', for which Scarfe caricatured 30 famous people from British history. British Press Awards elected him as their 'Cartoonist of the Year' in 2006. In 2008 Scarfe was appointed CBE by Queen Elizabeth II. Archeologists David M. Martill and Steve Etches discovered a fossil of a pterosaur in 2013 and named it "Cuspicephalus Scarfi", because its pointed beak reminded them of a typical Scarfe drawing. 

Bill Clinton by Gerald Scarfe
Bill Clinton by Gerald Scarfe

www.geraldscarfe.com

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