Peter Sellers and Terry Thomas – Carlton-Browne of the F.O.
Simon Bond/Nicholas Bromley.

I remember picking this up at one of those cheap bookstores for three quid about 10 years ago, having no idea who Robert Sherriffs was, but immediately transfixed by the cover and the artwork within. The recent talk at the Cartoonist by Terry Christien on the subject of linework featured a few pieces from this book, reminding me that this was a caricaturist worth revisiting.. The way the art looked and the fluid strokes were like nothing I had seen before. In the books introduction, Nicholas Bromley tells us how Sherriffs study of Heraldic art principles and composition could be adapted for caricature. Sherriffs himself said The brush was better than the pen for all manner of drawings, and confirmed my previous conviction that figures and faces were patterns to be studied and memorised – not patiently drawn from life. I regarded caricatures as designs, and the expressions on faces merely as changes in a basic pattern. Sherriffs was also known to destroy an image if the brush slipped rather than attempt to patch it up, no matter what the deadline was – a discipline again stemming from his heraldic studies. If Tippex had been around at the time I think he wouldn't have been a big fan.

What about the book itself? Well, it deals specifically with his caricatures from the world of film (another passion of his) featuring work from The Sketch, Radio Times and Punch, and what a great collection of caricatures this is! Page after page of famous faces: Joan Crawford, Bob Hope, Marlon Brando, John Wayne, Bogart – all instantly recognisable and captured in what seems an effortless manner. The book was the idea of Simon Bond, famous for his '101 uses of a dead cat' as a way of bringing Sherriffs name back into the public eye, although it sounds as though perhaps had Sherriffs been alive at the time he may not have been too happy about the publicity. The book's introduction describes him as successfully guarding his privacy from both his public and contemporaries during his many years as a leading caricaturist, until his untimely death at the age of 54 from cancer.

It seems there was only ever 1000 copies of this book made, so if you ever see a copy, snap it up! Highly recommended. (At the time of writing this, there are a couple of second-hand copies on Amazon – click the link at the top to take a look – Ian)

Tim Harries

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