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Ronald Searle, Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole

47 jewel-like drawings by Ronald Searle made for his wife, Monica, each time she underwent chemotherapy. On New Year’s Eve 1969, Monica Searle was diagnosed with a rare and virulent form of breast cancer. Each time she underwent treatment, Ronald produced a Mrs Mole drawing ‘to cheer every dreaded chemotherapy session and evoke the blissful future ahead’. Filled with light and illuminated in glowing colours, the drawings speak of love, optimism and hope. Like the mediaeval illuminated manuscripts such as the 15th-century Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, to which the title of this book refers, the 47 drawings are on an intimate scale and were never intended for publication.

When asked about the drawings, Searle said, “I have only my talent for drawing, so I drew.” Here’s a little more about them:

Prior to the cancer shock the couple had bought a decrepit house in the south of France and, despite her illness, Monica continued to devote her time making this house a home.

Devastated with his wife’s diagnosis Ronald did the only thing he knew how to do to cheer her up. .. draw.

Before every chemotherapy session he gave his wife a painting. Monica was depicted as a mole, a very happy mole celebrating life in their new home. (The Mole idea came after their discovery of a large celler that they made into a cosy room)

‘Everything about them had to be romantic and perfect,’ says Ronald. ‘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.”

Searle died last week at 91.

(Images via bluedoorbooks)