Gerald Scarfe on stage and screen

By Eliza Williams

Gerald Scarfe may be best known for his political cartoons for The Sunday Times, though if you’ve ever seen his illustrations in a production on stage or screen, it’s likely you’ll remember them.

Scarfe’s illustrations and design has transformed productions of old favourites such as The Nutcracker, The Magic Flute or Orpheus in the Underworld with his distinctive, outlandish characters. Of his work on the latter, he commented: “In a newspaper, you’ve got to hit hard, because you’re competing for the reader’s attention with advertisements and screaming headlines. So I was trained to catch the viewer’s eye, and that’s what I did with the scenery in Orpheus.”

Top: Poster for Orpheus in the Underground at the English National Opera; Above: Set design for Orpheus in the Underworld. All images © Gerald Scarfe
Gerald Scarfe
Character design for Orpheus in the Underworld
Gerald Scarfe
Poster for The Magic Flute at the Seattle Opera

In addition to these stage shows, his art also brought Pink Floyd’s 1982 film adaptation of The Wall its iconic status, and Scarfe also worked as a production designer for Disney (the only time the company has ever worked with an external designer) for the film Hercules in 1994.

The House of Illustration in London will be exhibiting over 100 of Scarfe’s works for these productions in a new exhibition which opens next Friday (September 22). The show will feature preliminary sketches, storyboards, set designs, photographs, ephemera and costumes from the productions.

Gerald Scarfe
From Pink Floyd’s The Wall
Gerald Scarfe
Painted film strips from Long Drawn Out Trip
Gerald Scarfe
Character design for The Nutcracker at English National Ballet

Gerald Scarfe: Stage and Screen is at House of Illustration in London from September 22–January 21, tickets £8.25; houseofillustration.org.uk

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