His style is unmistakable. Gerald Scarfe’s spiky, acerbic wit translates through his brush and directly into his cartoons. Consequently, Scarfe’s satirical work has established him as the foremost political cartoonist of the past five decades.
But a free exhibition opening on 31 March at the Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre from London’s House of Illustration – the first time the exhibition has toured outside the capital - will reveal a lesser-known aspect of the cartoonist and illustrator’s work as a production designer for film, music and ballet.
Much as Scarfe is synonymous with The Sunday Times and Private Eye, his designs for the film version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and opening credits of Yes, Minister suggest a far more diverse career. Indeed, his work on the animated feature film Hercules – as Disney’s first ever external production designer - may be something of a surprise to many.
Gerald Scarfe: Stage and Screen features over 100 preliminary sketches, storyboards, photographs, ephemera, costumes, set pieces and animation cels.
These are taken from Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979), Disney’s Hercules (1997), Los Angeles Opera’s The Magic Flute (1993) and Orpheus in the Underworld (1999), English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker (2002) and Scarfe’s own animated short, The Long Drawn Out Trip (1972).
Gerald Scarfe: Stage and Screen represents a rare opportunity to discover an imagination that is explosive and unique, both on and off the page.
Scarfe explains: “I always want to bring my creations to life – to bring them off the page and give them flesh and blood, movement and drama. Paintings and drawings are two dimensional. To give them 3D rotundity one has to make a sculpture. To give them life one needs animation or an actor on stage.”
Visitors to the exhibition at the Gallery can expect a riot of colour as they take “a trip down the fantastic, psychedelic rabbit hole of Scarfe’s imagination”, as one reviewer put it.
The exhibition also displays costumes and props from some of the productions he has designed for. The flamboyant King Rat costume is accompanied by video footage from The Nutcracker, showing the dancer moving in the intricate cape, bringing Scarfe’s vision for the character to life. Also included are the gas masks for The Nutcracker rats and a horned red and green top hat from Orpheus in the Underworld. All of this is enhanced by the text panels, written by the artist himself.
Scarfe made history when he became the first external designer to work with the Disney company since Salvador Dali, who had been invited by Walt in the 1930s to make Destino, an animated movie. Disney fans and children will particularly enjoy Gerald’s sketches for Hercules. When Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall went to number one in the UK pop charts in 1979, Scarfe not only directed the official music video, but also created the animation inserts which would be used in the feature film, The Wall. A selection of Scarfe’s work on The Wall is featured in the exhibition, as is his short film, A Long Drawn Out Trip, a stream-of-consciousness piece that reflected Scarfe’s perception of American culture. It was this that piqued the interest of Pink Floyd and convinced them to hire him.
Janet Owen, Chief Executive Officer of Hampshire Cultural Trust, says: “I’m delighted that Gerald Scarfe: Stage and Screen is coming to the Gallery here in Winchester. It is a magical show and affords a genuinely fascinating insight into this less well-known aspect of his career. From the dark to the phantasmagorical, the comic to the absurd, this exhibition has incredible breadth and depth. It is an absolute treat for both Scarfe aficionados and those less familiar with his work.”