Gerald Scarfe’s satirical depictions of Margaret Thatcher will be the subject of an exhibition at The Bowes Museum in Spring 2015. This previously un-exhibited body of work spans a 22 year period and illustrates the turbulent career of one of the most significant political figures of recent times.
These illustrations chart the Iron Lady’s time as a member of the shadow cabinet, her leadership of the Conservative Party, her tenure as Prime Minister, and, ultimately, her political decline. The cartoons are vivid reminders of the miners’ strike, the Falklands War and the close relations Maggie struck up with the USA. In colourful pen and ink, Thatcher is varyingly depicted as cunning, razor sharp and perversely sexual. They depict Thatcher in multiple guises as a shark, a chicken and an axe.
Gerald Scarfe has explained, "I didn't agree with her values, but she was amazing material. I could turn her into anything acerbic or cutting, like a dagger or a knife, probing and vicious."
This exhibition will demonstrate the enormous contribution Gerald Scarfe has made to both political commentary and graphic art. The sweeping gesture of his pen stroke, his colour palette linked to the introduction of colour print at The Sunday Times and the influence he has drawn from artists such as Francis Bacon, place Scarfe as one of the finest political cartoonists of our time. His scrutiny of Thatcher’s political career and impact is particularly poignant as we approach the next general election.
Milk Snatcher, Thatcher Drawings will be curated by former Turner Prize judge, Greville Worthington and accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
Gerald Scarfe was born in London in 1936. Having studied briefly at the Royal College of Art, he started working as a satirical cartoonist for Punch magazine and Private Eye in the 1960s.
In 1967 he was appointed political cartoonist for The Sunday Times, a role he has held for 44 years whilst also working for the New Yorker magazine. Gerald Scarfe has designed sets and costumes for operas around the world, collaborating with the English National Opera, the English National Ballet and the Los Angeles Opera. He has also worked for television; Scarfe created the opening title sequences for the classic comedy series, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister and he designed and directed the animation sequences for the film of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, as well as backdrops for the live concerts and recent live tour.
In 2008 Gerald Scarfe was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
In 2011, a 155 million years old fossil of a prehistoric flying reptile was found in Dorset and named Cuspicephalus scarfi, after him. This species had an especially long pointed head, which was similar to Scarfe’s caricatures of Margaret Thatcher when depicted as a pointy-nosed Torydactyl.
Gerald Scarfe’s artworks are in a number of public collections including TATE Modern, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian, New York and the House of Commons Collection.