Gerald Scarfe was born in St. John's Wood, London. Bed-ridden by a severe case of asthma he started drawing and making plasticine models to occupy his time. His main inspirations were Ronald Searle, William Hogarth, Saul Steinberg, George Grosz, Max Beerbohm, Honoré Daumier, Pablo Picasso, André François, Al Hirschfeld and Walt Disney. He studied at Saint Martin's School of Art, London College of Printing and East Ham Technical College in London and worked as an advertiser before finding more joy as a newspaper cartoonist. Scarfe provided caricatures and illustrations for magazines such as Private Eye, Punch, The Evening Standard, The Daily Sketch, The Sunday Times, Time and The Daily Mail.
His pointy, often monstrously grotesque caricatural style combines a knack for expressive line drawing while trying to capture the personalities of the politicians he targets. He drew the caricatures in the opening and closing credits of the popular BBC sitcoms 'Yes Minister' (1980-1982) and its spin-off 'Yes Prime Minister' (1986-1988). Royal Mail honored him by letting him provide caricatures of British comedians for a series of commemorative postage stamps. Scarfe is also an active set and background designer for several opera productions.
In 1966 he created a controversial cartoon, depicting queen Elizabeth II riding a horse. The horse - representing the U.K. - is tethered down by a long vine, grown all over its legs. Her saddle is the British flag, with the American Stars 'n' Stripes stitched over it. On her chest one can read the slogan "Britain for Sale", summarizing Scarfe's feelings about how the U.S.A. dominated the U.K. The cartoon led to countless angry letters, but also broke a half a century old taboo against critical depictions of the British monarch.
The general public knows Scarfe best as an animator for the British rock band Pink Floyd. His animated short 'A Long Drawn Out Trip' (1971) drew the attention of the group's members. He drew a caricature for the comic book that came with the band's 1974-1975 tour and a series of animations for their 1977 'In The Flesh' tour in support of their 'Animals' album, complete with a music video for their song 'Welcome to the Machine'. He illustrated the inside cover of their 1979 album 'The Wall', and provided the animation segments for the 1980 stage show and 1982 film adaptation: 'Pink Floyd: The Wall'.
The members of Pink Floyd, as seen by Scarfe: Richard Wright, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Nick Mason
He continued providing graphics, animation and theatrical designs for their later tours. His work for Pink Floyd was collected in the 2010 book 'The Making of Pink Floyd: The Wall'. In 1997 Scarfe also worked as a design artist on the Walt Disney animated feature 'Hercules'.
British Press Awards elected him as their 'Cartoonist of the Year' in 2006. In 2008 Scarfe was appointed CBE by Queen Elizabeth II.