Born in London in 1936, Gerald’s career has spanned more than 60 years.
He established himself as a satirical cartoonist working for Punch magazine and Private Eye during the early sixties. He was political cartoonist for the Sunday Times for 50 years, and for The New Yorker magazine for 15 years.
Other work includes collaborations with Pink Floyd, including for their 1979 Album The Wall and as production designer for the 1982 film adaptation.
Scarfe designed Disney’s animated feature Hercules (1997), and created the opening titles for Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.
He has designed sets and costumes for plays, operas, ballet and musicals including Orpheus in the Underworld (ENO), The Nutcracker (English National Ballet), Fantastic Mr Fox and The Magic Flute (LA Opera). He has had many one-man exhibitions worldwide.
Gerald Scarfe was born in London in 1936. At the age of one he developed chronic asthma and was bedridden for long periods of his childhood, finding solace in drawing: a way of communicating and exorcising his fears and anxieties.
His schooling was spasmodic, and with little academic training he struggled to find work, until his uncle gave him a job in his small graphic studio.
Gerald spent six years there drawing domestic goods for advertisements and catalogues. Frustrated by the mundane task of making idealised illustrations for purely commercial purposes, he took a chance and went freelance. He had always drawn cartoons, and quickly began to have some accepted for publication in newspapers and magazines, ending up working full time for the satirical magazine Punch.
Gerald worked successfully for Punch magazine from 1960-62, drawing cartoons and designing multiple covers. The editor sent him to draw the newly rebuilt cathedral in Coventry, the original having been almost totally destroyed during the war. This was his first experience of reportage (he would later make on the spot drawings of the Vietnam War, the Irish Troubles and many other real-life situations).
At the same time he worked for the satirical magazine, Private Eye, where he was able to caricature and attack politicians and social subjects alike.
After an unhappy stint at the Daily Mail, in 1967 he was asked by radical editor Harry Evans to join the Sunday Times, and jumped at the chance.
It was at The Sunday Times that Gerald once again found freedom to attack his political subjects. In 1971 he took part in Snap!, an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which also featured the work of David Hockney and David Bailey.
He was sent by the BBC to Los Angeles to draw a short film about all things American. The result was his first attempt at animation: Long Drawn Out Trip, a hand drawn, psychedelic stream of consciousness featuring icons such as Mickey Mouse, The Statue of Liberty, Playboy magazine and many others. Two members of Pink Floyd saw the film (“he’s fucking mad – we have to work with this guy!”) and this resulted in Gerald producing an animated sequence to be shown during their live performance of Wish you Were Here.
After a meeting with Roger Waters in 1978 and hearing the raw tapes of The Wall, Gerald began designs for a set of characters that would become synonymous with the album and appear on the album sleeve design; he also produced animation sequences for the live shows.
In 1980, Gerald and Roger produced the storyboard for the film of The Wall. In the same year the iconic stop motion title sequence for Yes Minister was created.
Later, as well as designing the animation for The Wall stage show, he made inspirational drawings and storyboards for the live action film, which was released in 1982 after a turbulent production.
In 1985 Scarfe designed the sets, costumes and overall production of the critically acclaimed Orpheus in The Underworld for English National Opera.
Orpheus and The Underworld led to more theatre work, including Born Again at the Chichester Festival Theatre and The Magic Flute in Seattle and LA Opera. When in LA, Gerald met John Musker, one of the producers on Walt Disney’s Hercules. This started the conversation about his doing some drawings for the film, which grew into Gerald becoming lead production designer. Hercules was released in 1997 and continues to be one of the favourites of Walt Disney’s catalogue.
Gerald was contacted by journalist Simon Jenkins to see if he would be interested in making some sculptures for London’s ‘Millennium Dome’, a new building created to celebrate the new millennium. These were to feature in ‘The Self-Portrait Zone’ – an area devised to represent the British character: Gerald’s contribution was to show its darker side. He produced several large sculptures highlighting British issues such as racism and football hooliganism and satirising our addiction to television and our love of lavatorial humour.
In 2002 Gerald worked on his first ballet, The Nutcracker, for the English National Ballet. Some critics were outraged by the dark satirical style, which they found controversial in the ballet setting, and particularly in a production aimed at children.
Gerald curated the political section of Rude Britannia at Tate Britain, a show looking at the legacy of British comic art, from the bawdy comic art of the 1600’s to the present day.
As well as publishing his book, The Making of Pink Floyd The Wall, Gerald once again collaborated with Roger Waters on his new Wall Tour, creating new designs, including making large inflatables of The Teacher and Mother.
In 2014 Gerald was invited to produce a set of large-scale oil paintings to cover the walls in a bar to be named after him in the brand new Rosewood Hotel in London.
Gerald continues to work in his studio every day. As well many private and public commissions, he has a one-man show in Austria scheduled for March 2023, he is producing a book of the art he created for Disney’s ‘Hercules’ and working on a large oil painting of music stars such as Elvis, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Elton John.