Ralph Steadman

(b. 1936)

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(1936– )

British caricaturist, illustrator, printmaker, designer, and writer, born in Wallasey, Cheshire. He studied through a postal course and part-time at the London College of Printing. From 1956 to 1959 he worked as a cartoonist for Kemsley (Thomson) Newspapers, then turned freelance. He has been highly prolific, working for numerous magazines and newspapers, including Private Eye, Punch, and The Daily Telegraph, and illustrating many books. The books include several that he wrote himself, among them Sigmund Freud (1979, reissued as The Penguin Sigmund Freud, 1982) and I, Leonardo (1983). These show his anarchic humour, but he is also capable of savagery and moral indignation, as in a cover illustration for Weekend Magazine in 1978 protesting against seal-hunting: it shows a woman in a sealskin coat symbolically spattered with the blood of the slaughtered animals. With Gerald Scarfe (his exact contemporary), Steadman is regarded as one of the outstanding satirical draughtsmen in British art. However, whereas Scarfe is essentially a portraitist, Steadman is more of a social commentator, who ‘transforms appearances in a quasi-surrealistic way, using the new shapes as metaphors for character’ (Edward Lucie-Smith, The Art of Caricature, 1981). Typically he works in pen-and-ink in a swift, fluid style.

Subjects: Art.

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