Steadman@77: Cartoon Museum's Ralph Steadman Retrospective Exhibition

By Culture24 Reporter | 08 May 2013

Exhibition preview: Steadman@77: A Ralph Steadman Retrospective Exhibition, Cartoon Museum, London, until September 8 2013

An image of a black ink political cartoon of a figure speaking
Ralph Steadman, The Last Supposition (October 11 1985). New Statesman© Ralph Steadman
Perhaps it is a measure of the breadth of Ralph Steadman’s career that the catalogue for this exhibition, celebrating his 77th birthday through more than 100 original works, features the famous (Johnny Depp), the occasionally infamous (Will Self) and, in the Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, a fellow artist known for keeping his lines as sharp as his eye for satire.

Depp and Steadman – two cult figures in their own right – are united by the literary and cinematic versions of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the artist having provided the devilish visual aspects of the book 27 years before the actor took A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream in 1998.

“Ralph is an icon,” says Depp, noting Steadman’s equally iconic political works and amounting his “mad jargon” to “a paragon of artistic brilliance.”

“Through the illustrated musings of his life and times, Ralph’s bird will perpetually soar in the minds of those that follow, carrying the torch he once collected from all the dissidents that spewed their creative venom before him. Here is a man and artist of superior calibre.”

Those birds came in Steadman’s most recent book, last year’s dizzyingly detailed Extinct Boids, originally created as part of a conservationist project with the filmmaker Ceri Levy.

Steadman was born in Liverpool in 1936 and first published in the Manchester Evening Chronicle 20 years later, going on to become an eminent artist during the period known as The Satire Boom of the 1960s, when he appeared in Punch and Private Eye.

A version of Alice in Wonderland, in 1967, proved an award-winning one, but he would contribute to an even more psychedelic venture after collaborating with Thompson in 1970.

Originally a Rolling Stone piece, Steadman didn’t accompany Thompson on his Gonzo journey, but no artist could have captured the spirit of that trip with such clarity, and the pair also covered major Stateside political events during the 1970s, when Steadman drew for The Times, the New York Times, the New Statesman, Observer Magazine and the Radio Times.

Steadman’s own travels, for Oddbins Wine Merchants catalogues from the late 1980s onwards, chime as gentler episodes of far-flung debauchery. The imagery here comes from his visits to vineyards and whisky distilleries for the company.

Self formed an equally formidable partner following the turn of the century. Psychogeography pondered the wide-eyed wonder of walking in compelling fashion within weekly dispatches in The Independent. An artist of flight with his feet on the ground, Steadman’s ability to transport is unsurpassable.

  • Open 10.30am-5.30pm (12pm-5.30pm Sunday, closed July 22). Admission £3-£5 (free for under-18s). Follow the museum on Twitter @Cartoonmuseumuk.

More pictures:

An image of a black ink cartoon showing figures embarking on an adventure in a car
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (November 11 1971). Rolling Stone© Ralph Steadman
An image of a black ink illustration of a fairytale rabbit in a hat and coat
The White Rabbit (1967). Alice in Wonderland© Ralph Steadman
An image of an ink and colour illustration of a man's face
Self‐Poortrait (2006)© Ralph Steadman
An image of a fairytale-style illustration of a woman surrounded by floating shapes
From I, Leonardo (1986)© Ralph Steadman
An image of a colour and black ink illustration of a human-robot figure
Hunter S Thompson, 1937‐2005© Ralph Steadman
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