Entertainment & Arts

Gerald Scarfe's colourful career

Gerald Scarfe, pictured in 2009
Image caption Gerald Scarfe famously worked with Pink Floyd on their 1979 album The Wall

Veteran British cartoonist Gerald Scarfe has caused controversy after a recent drawing for the Sunday Times led to accusations of anti-Semitism and an apology from Rupert Murdoch.

Yet this is far from the first time his distinctive style of political satire - a fixture of national newspapers and magazines for decades - has been the subject of intense debate.

Renowned for his vivid, often cruel caricatures and pointed, sometimes contentious commentary, Scarfe rarely pulls punches when it comes to depicting public figures and the political class.

An early sketch of his depicting Winston Churchill in his last days as an MP was spiked by The Times, who feared his depiction of the age-ravaged former prime minister would upset Churchill's wife.

In one famous illustration, published at the time of the 1963 Profumo affair, he imagined a naked Harold MacMillan sitting on a chair in a pose made famous by the model Christine Keeler.

And in 1974 he marked the resignation of disgraced president Richard Nixon with a drawing that had him wiping his rear with the American flag.

Born in 1936 in St John's Wood in north London, Scarfe's childhood asthma led to long periods in bed that enabled him to indulge his passion for drawing.

After studying at St Martin's College of Art he got his first break with Punch, going on to work for Private Eye, the Daily Mail and Time magazine.

Image caption Tony Blair is one of many politicians to have been pilloried by his pen

In 1967 he began a long association with the Sunday Times as its political cartoonist. He has also worked for The New Yorker magazine for more than 20 years.

Some of his most striking imagery was reserved for Margaret Thatcher, variously depicted during her premiership as a battleaxe, a blind automaton and a bloody-fanged pterodactyl.

"I could always draw her as something acerbic [and] cutting, like an axe or a knife," he told BBC News in 2008. "It's great fun transmogrifying [politicians] into other objects.

"The best drawings are those which are fired by anger."

Outside of his newspaper work, Scarfe is perhaps best known for the illustrations for Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall and the 1982 feature film it inspired.

Millions also know his work from the opening titles of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister and from Disney's 1997 animated feature Hercules.

Scarfe was made a CBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours and has exhibited his work around the world.

He has three children with the actress Jane Asher, whom he met in 1971 and married 10 years later.

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