How Ronald Searle Got His Wife Through Chemotherapy Treatment

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On New Year's Eve 1969, Monica Searle was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Experimental at the time, chemotherapy -- the course of action Monica's doctor recommended -- was a leap of faith. After each treatment, her husband Ronald made Monica a Mrs. Mole drawing "to cheer every dreaded chemotherapy session and evoke the blissful future ahead." The Mole idea came after the couple discovered a large cellar in the decrepit house they had just bought in the south of France. Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole gathers 47 of these jewel-like drawings, full of love and light and glowing colors. The title of the book plays off the 15th-century illuminated manuscript Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Never intended for publication, these intimate visual vignettes exude contagious optimism and hope, a kind of earnestness completely and exuberantly devoid of Searle's signature sardonic style.

Everything about them had to be romantic and perfect. I drew them originally for no one's eyes except Mo's, so she would look at them propped up against her bedside lamp and think: 'When I'm better, everything will be beautiful.' --Ronald Searle

This is love.

Monica passed away last summer, some 40 years after her cancer diagnosis, and Ronald Searle joined his beloved last week at the age of 91.

Image: Harpercollins; Via Austin Kleon; H/T @kristinbutler.

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This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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