Over 130 drawings by the foremost caricaturist and cartoonist of our age, Gerald Scarfe (b. 1936), come up at Sotheby’s in London on April 5. One highlight is a drawing of Winston Churchill showing his final appearance in the House of Commons in 1964. Scarfe had been commissioned by The Times to record the occasion, but his image was deemed too controversial to publish. In the artist’s own words ‘…The Times refused to print my drawing, saying that Churchill’s wife, Clementine, would be upset when the paper dropped through the letter-box in the morning.’ Less than six months later Churchill was dead, and the image appeared on Private Eye’s cover. Until recently, the drawing has been on exhibition at Portcullis House, House of Commons.
Continuing a tradition of uncompromising satire dating back to Hogarth and Gillray, Scarfe has pushed the boundaries of caricature for more than five decades, delivering provocative portraits of the foremost politicians and statesmen of our age, from Winston Churchill to Theresa May. Together, they tell the history of over half a century of political intrigue and seismic change. Scarfe’s no-holds-barred approach in his contributions for Private Eye and The New Yorker, and as The Sunday Times’ political cartoonist for more than 50 years, has secured him a place on the list of the most 40 important newspaper journalists of the modern era. While many of the drawings included in the auction have been published, a number of works included in the sale are unseen, revealing the most private views of the artist.