The title for this blog should really be: The Power of Love, Art and Vicious Medicine.
In 1969 Monica Searle was diagnosed with a rare and virulent form of breast cancer. She undertook a horrendous, experimental course of chemotherapy.
During her treatment, her husband, artist and satirical cartoonist Ronald Searle, created a Mrs. Mole drawing to cheer her through each chemo session.
These tender little drawings were never intended for publication. They evoke a blissful future life in the house in Provence which the Searles had recently purchased and were restoring.
“He was wonderful throughout – a tower of strength and a continual source of pleasure,” wrote Monica. Her harrowing treatments lasted five years and, against all odds, she survived. Ironically, although she survived the treatments so many years ago, she passed away recently before this little book of drawings was published.
Searle’s pictures are full of light and love and hope. The title of the book, Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole, refers to a 15th Century illuminated manuscript,Très Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry.
If you have forgotten his work – or are too young to remember it – take a look at some of his other books in our collection. Ah yes, I Remember it Well: Paris 1961-1975 contains drawings of Paris where the Searles were living when Monica received her diagnosis.
While humourous, they have a biting edge: lovers entwined on a bench overlooking the Seine are sitting next to a dissolute street person.
And speaking of dissolute, check out Something in the Cellar: Ronald Searle's wonderful world of wine. It’s a hilarious look at wine culture around the world where almost everyone is wasted and no one escapes unscathed.