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Ralph Steadman’s grotesquely brilliant illustrations for Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’
06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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George Orwell had difficulty in getting Animal Farm published in the 1940s. His satirical fable about a farm being taken over by a cowardly, power-mad pig was seen as an undisguised and rather offensive attack on Soviet Russia and its leader Joseph Stalin. As Orwell later explained in his introduction to the book, it was not considered the done thing in 1940s Britain to criticize their war ally Russia and especially its leader Stalin in any way. (Sidebar: Orwell’s introduction was not included in the book on its first publication and is still missing from most editions today.)

Due to the war, any criticism of Uncle Joe was not tolerated—even if there was ample evidence that things might not be as jolly as the Russians liked to pretend. The media (including the BBC) and its allies in left-wing intelligentsia swallowed wholeheartedly every piece of propaganda issued by the U.S.S.R. which was then spewed out as fact.  But Orwell was never one to be swayed by the heady eau de cologne of fashionable politics. Orwell actually believed in a practical socialism—not one that resulted in the oppression of the majority by a tiny minority as was the case with Stalin, whose dictatorship had murdered up to 60 million.

Eventually, after a series of surprising knockbacks from British and American publishers (including one from T. S. Eliot at Faber & Faber), Orwell’s tale was successfully published by Secker & Warburg in August 1945 and has never been out of print since. However, its release was not well received. Certain critics tried to damn the book with faint praise or dismiss it as “clumsy” and “dull.” Now, clumsy and dull are not the kind of words I would ever associate with Orwell’s fastidious writing or with this allegorical masterpiece.

Orwell first had the idea for Animal Farm after seeing a small boy whipping a horse:

“...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

Orwell wrote Animal Farm between 1943 and 1944, during the height of the Second World War. He also added in some of his own personal experience of having witnessed firsthand the Communist purges during the Spanish Civil War which revealed to him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.” Orwell intended his novella as a warning and a condemnation of Stalin’s vicious dictatorship and his corruption of socialist ideals.

Political cartoonist David Low was the man who first illustrated Orwell’s political parable. While Low’s work was satirical and well-matched to Orwell’s prose, his illustrations pale when compared to the scabrous beauty of Ralph Steadman’s grotesque scratchings. Steadman provided illustrations for the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm in 1995.

I’d be hard put to think of any other artist who so effectively depicts the grim satire at the heart of Orwell’s tale. Steadman’s drawings seem to be on the verge of exploding with fury at the raw injustice of life or, in this case, the political allegory of the endless brutal horror of Animal Farm.
 
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See more of Ralph Steadman’s gonzo illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.19.2017
12:04 pm
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Comics-inspired Criterion movie posters by Daniel Clowes, R. Crumb, Ralph Steadman & more
08.29.2016
01:13 pm
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A 2010 movie poster for the 1968 film ‘Head’ by Wayne Shellabarger.
 
Back in 2010 Criterion had the fantastic idea to have director Jim Jarmusch select a number of notable artists including Daniel Clowes, R. Crumb and Hunter S. Thompson’s pal Ralph Steadman to design movie posters for various Criterion releases. The posters made their debut during an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival which Jarmusch curated in 2010.
 

A poster for the 1963 film ‘Shock Corridor’ by Daniel Clowes.
 
If you’ve not seen the artwork that Clowes created for two films in Criterion’s collection directed by Samuel Fuller—1963’s mental hospital fever-dream Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss—you are in for a treat. I’ve assembled a number of the posters done by a wide range of artists that pay homage to films by Wes Anderson, Hal Ashby and David Cronenberg just to name a few. In 2014 Criterion published a massive book Criterion Designs that features a collection of artwork created for films in their catalog including many of the ones featured in this post.
 

‘Crumb’ by R. Crumb.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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08.29.2016
01:13 pm
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King of Gonzo: Portraits of Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman
07.25.2016
03:16 pm
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A portrait of Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman.
 
Artist Ralph Steadman remained tight with his friend and muse Hunter S. Thompson until the later’s death in 2005—despite the fact that when Steadman first met the gonzo journalist in 1970 he was convinced that Thompson didn’t like him. And he wasn’t wrong.
 

 
When Steadman was given the assignment to create illustrations for a story Thompson was penning on the Kentucky Derby for the short-lived publication Scanlan’s Monthly  (The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved June 1970, Volume one, Number four), true to form, the notoriously cantankerous Thompson took an “instant dislike” to him. Steadman recalls that Hunter thought he was “pompous” and during several occasions when he was attempting to create some of the illustrations for the Derby story he could hear Thompson muttering the words “For God’s sake, stop your filthy scribbling.”

Although they got off to a rough start (like the majority of Thompson’s relationships with most human beings) the two would go on to collaborate for decades. I’ve been a fan of Steadman’s art since I was a kid thanks to my father and the confrontational artist was the focus of a great documentary back in 2012 For No Good Reason which I highly recommend you check out. Many of Steadman’s portraits of the great Dr. Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson follow.
 

1996.
 

1997.
 
More pure, unadulterated GONZO after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.25.2016
03:16 pm
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‘Nothing so dangerous as an idea: Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’

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Ray Bradbury needed somewhere quiet to write. His wife had given birth to a baby daughter and their neat home did not seem so large anymore. Bradbury couldn’t afford to rent an office, so he spent his writing time in the UCLA library. Then one day he heard the Morse code clatter of keys on rollers and discovered the library offered typewriters for hire in a basement typing room at ten cents per half hour. Loaded up with a bagful of dimes, Bradbury started work on his latest story Fahrenheit 451.

Bradbury never liked to know what he was doing or where he was going when he wrote—he just hammered out the words from “the secret motives within.” It took him ten days to write Fahrenheit 451. Ten days to run up-and-down stairs and pull books off shelves to find random quotes for his book. Ten days not knowing what he was writing just following the course of the words that tumbled out of his head to tell their tale.

Published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a future America where books are banned and firemen are professional arsonists who patrol the cities burning every book they find. The title Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. Books are banned because they contain ideas that make people unhappy. The firemen burn the books to keep the people happy in their safe little spaces. Bradbury’s story could be our America today, where “politically correct” college students shut down ideas they cannot handle, and where “debate” means only talking to those who agree with you.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fahrenheit 251 in 2003, renowned artist Ralph Steadman was commissioned to illustrate Bradbury’s classic tale with his signature manic scratch and splatter style. Steadman had famously collaborated with Hunter S. Thompson on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and over a long career has illustrated numerous books, articles and films as well as producing a vast collection of personal work. Though Steadman was said to be “jaded” about illustrating any more books, he was thrilled to illustrate Bradbury’s classic as he considered it “as important as 1984 and Animal Farm as real powerful social comment, because it’s about a fire brigade burning books.”

As someone once said, I think it was me: There is nothing so dangerous as an idea. Particularly one whose time has come…

When Bradbury saw Steadman’s vibrant illustrations, the author paid the artist the highest compliment:

You’ve brought my book into the 21st Century. Thank you.

Steadman’s flamboyant penmanship suits Bradbury’s style of writing “at the top of [his] lungs”—as both work intuitively, allowing accident and inspiration to lead them towards unknown destinations.
 
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There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

 
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It was a pleasure to burn.
More of Steadman’s fiery illustrations for Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.18.2015
11:02 am
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Ralph Steadman’s endangered ‘boids’
09.08.2015
01:08 pm
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Blue-throated macaw
 
Renowned for his memorable visual interpretations of the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, Ralph Steadman has since transitioned to a less gonzo subject matter—birding. Next week sees the publication of a new book of Steadman’s paintings of endangered birds called Nextinction, as a follow-up to his 2012 book Extinct Boids, which, obviously, focused on “boids” that are, ah, no longer endangered. Both books were cowritten by Cari Levy. Nextinction came out in July in the U.K., but the U.S. publication date is September 15.

According to the Guardian, 1 in 8 species of birds is threatened by extinction. Steadman’s interest in the animal kingdom is not limited to these two books; he also published The Ralph Steadman Book of Cats and The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs as well as The Book of Jones: A Tribute to the Mercurial, Manic, and Utterly Seductive Cat.

For more information on endangered avian species, you can check out the website for Endangered Species International. If you want to help endangered bird species, one of the concrete steps you can take is to build a pond in your backyard.
 

California condor
 

Red-crowned crane
 
More of Steadman’s “boids” after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.08.2015
01:08 pm
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Five merry & macabre Ralph Steadman Christmas cartoons from way back in 1957
12.24.2014
05:12 pm
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Ralph Steadman‘s path to the splattered and hyperbolic cartoons that went so well with the gonzo journalism of Hunter Thompson was neither short nor straightforward. Steadman’s first published comic (about Egypt) appeared in the Manchester Evening Chronicle in 1956. As he said in an interview in 1989, “It was done in sort of quasi-David Low style, because that was the sort of thing that was expected: if you did a political cartoon, it had to look like David Low. Nothing had come on the horizon yet for me. I hadn’t yet found George Grosz. I hadn’t even found Picasso. I had not really found anybody at that time.”

A year later, for Christmas, the same newspaper ran five single-paneled cartoons on the theme of Christmas by Steadman; the date was December 21, 1957. He was all of 21 years old.

The Evening Chronicle was trying to make Steadman into a local and beloved figure with a nickname to match his signature of that time—“STEAD.” The title of the Christmas gallery of cartoons is “STEAD Looks at Christmas.” It’s interesting to see signs of the scathing and acidic negativity that would come later in Steadman’s career here, when his style was relatively anonymous—“quasi-David Low,” as he said. His concept of a cute punchline was pretty negative, whether it’s a Santa in the Sahara or Santa having to buy an unfathomable number of stamps or, in the most Steadman-esque of the bunch by far, a frenzied paterfamilias exasperated with “Aunt Agatha” while he cuts the Christmas goose.
 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.24.2014
05:12 pm
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Walter White goes Gonzo: ‘Breaking Bad’ illustrations by Ralph Steadman
10.14.2014
04:11 pm
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Saul Goodman by Ralph Steadman
 
For the upcoming limited-edition Blu-ray release of Breaking Bad, show creator Vince Gilligan joined forces with Gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman to create six different covers for each season of the show. Available in February, these spectacular collectibles will be sold exclusively by Zavvi.com ($30 bucks each). Pre-order is going on now but be forewarned, the Gus “The Chicken Man” Fring edition for season four (as well as Mike Ehrmantraut’s season five and Hank Schrader’s show finale edition) have already sold-out. Images from each of the six covers follow.
 
Gus Fring by Ralph Steadman
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Walter White by Ralph Steadman
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Hank Scrader by Ralph Steadman
Hank Schrader
 
Mike Ehrmantraut by Ralph Steadman
Mike Ehrmantraut
 
Jesse Pinkman by Ralph Steadman
Jesse Pinkman
 
Via Paste Magazine

Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.14.2014
04:11 pm
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Fear and Loathing in elementary school: Ralph Steadman’s ‘Little Red Computer’
06.11.2014
10:31 am
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Illustrator and cartoonist Ralph Steadman is synonymous with Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo antics and books, yet he has a huge body of work that has nothing at all to do with HST.  Most of the books he illustrated (and, in some cases, wrote) in the ‘60s and pre-HST ‘70s are long out of print and, thanks to his collectibility as one of the greatest contemporary British artists, fairly expensive.
 
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One of his first published books, after years of doing cartoons and drawings for publications like Punch and Private Eye, was a children’s book, The Little Red Computer, published in 1969 by Dobson in the U.K. (and McGraw-Hill in the U.S.), which may just be the first children’s book in literary history to feature a computer as a character. Steadman’s choice of a computer as a character was visionary, since personal computers would not be an easily recognizable common possession for over a decade. Not surprisingly, his sympathy lies with the bullied underdog, in this case a computer that doesn’t understand numbers and consequently flunks out of computer school. He is discarded in an empty field to rust, but soon the field is chosen to be the site of a rocket launch.

Kirkus Review’s brief blurb about the plot is:
 

He can’t add 2 and 2, but, spluttering directions to “where stars are born” and “where Knowledge can be found,” the little red computer leads the first expedition into outer space. Propelled by the little red engine.

 
A first edition in decent condition goes for up to $600.  It was reprinted as a limited edition by Steam Press in 2004, along with the follow-up to the story, Flowers for the Moon, originally only published in German in 1974.
 
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With the mandated anti-bullying programs in American public schools, why not reprint Ralph’s book and make it required reading? Educational art from a master and a worthy message in one colorful, charming book.

More Little Red Computer illustrations can be found here.

The art of Ralph Steadman: a savage satirist:
 

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright
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06.11.2014
10:31 am
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Happy Birthday Ralph Steadman: Hunter S. Thompson collaborator turns 78 today
05.15.2014
09:15 am
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The great British illustrator Ralph Steadman turns 78 today, May 15, 2014. From his beginnings as a brutally unforgiving satirist and caricaturist, through the work of his most enduring fame in the 1970s with Hunter S. Thompson and Rolling Stone magazine, to his present day work painting extinct birds and designing beer labels for Flying Dog Brewery, Steadman has produced some of the most distinctive and ferocious art ever to break through to mass culture.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Obviously there are thousands of brilliant Steadman images I could link, but as that’s not practical, I defer to the VAST portfolio and in-depth bio that can be found at cartoons.ac.uk, and, naturally, his own site. The comprehensive documentary, For No Good Reason, is finally going to be catchable in the US very soon. It was seen in the BFI London Film Festival in 2012 and the Toronto Independent Film Festival in 2013, and has had a few American screenings, most recently at SXSW. It’s already playing in NYC, and more screening dates can be found here.

The BBC doc below, 1978’s Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision, follows Steadman and Thompson on a trip through the USA. (It can also be found under the title “Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood” as a bonus feature on the Criterion edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, if you’re just dying to own it.)
 

 
More fear and loathing after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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05.15.2014
09:15 am
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Hunter S. Thompson: Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision, 1978
08.01.2012
02:00 pm
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Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision AKA Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood, is a 1978 film produced by BBC Omnibus and directed by Nigel Finch.

Here’s how Documentary Heaven described the film:

A fascinating, 30 year old BBC documentary on the Good Doctor and Ralph Steadman, five years after Nixon’s resignation, and on a road trip to Hollywood (to work on what would become Where the Buffalo Roam).

Includes an interesting scene of John Dean chatting with Hunter about his Watergate testimony (at about 32 minutes), the birth of the “Re-Elect Nixon Campaign” (with a Bill Murray cameo), and a remarkably eerie scene with Hunter and Ralph planning Hunter’s final monument and his ashes being shot into the air, long before the actual fact.

 

 
Via Exile on Mona Street

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.01.2012
02:00 pm
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Hunter S. Thompson: Fear And Loathing In Gonzovision
01.04.2011
04:12 pm
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Hunter S. Thompson portrait by Curt Makes Pictures
 
BBC Omnibus documentary from 1978.

A fascinating, 30 year old BBC documentary on the Good Doctor and Ralph Steadman, five years after Nixon’s resignation, and on a road trip to Hollywood (to work on what would become “Where the Buffalo Roam“).

Includes an interesting scene of John Dean chatting with Hunter about his Watergate testimony (at about 32 minutes), the birth of the “Re-Elect Nixon Campaign” (with a Bill Murray cameo), and a remarkably eerie scene with Hunter and Ralph planning Hunter’s final monument and his ashes being shot into the air, long before the actual fact.

Via Documentary Heaven
 


Fear & Loathing in Gonzovision 1 of 3

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.04.2011
04:12 pm
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William Burroughs shoots WIlliam Shakespeare
05.10.2010
07:41 pm
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William Burroughs, with the great illustrator Ralph Steadman, shooting one of Steadman’s prints, a portrait of William Shakespeare.

Via 3am Magazine and HTML Giant.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.10.2010
07:41 pm
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