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Ronald Searle’s private drawings now on display

The Cartoon Museum in London is now displaying private drawings created by Ronald Searle that he drew while his wife was battling cancer.

In 1969, Monica was diagnosed with breast cancer and given only a few months to live. She was offered a course of what in those days was seen as an experimental form of chemotherapy. Searle, regarded by his peers as the greatest living cartoonist, recalls his reaction: “I had only my talent for drawing … so I drew.”

He gave her the Mrs Mole drawings as she lay in her hospital bed in Paris, one for each of her treatments, showing Monica’s alter ego cheerful and busy in a setting heavily based on their own home in a village in Provence.

The drawings were full of details from their domestic life: her grandmother also pottered about carrying a basket of keys, and in the renovation of their own house they had recently discovered a bundle of huge, ancient keys. Monica recalled: “I would lie in bed, living the life he created in the pictures.”

His wife survived the cancer. The drawings are part of a breast cancer charity awareness effort. Exhibit runs through March 20.

Community Comments

#1 Pat Crowley
February/14/2011
@ 9:49 pm

The greatest and most influential cartoonist of the century and still with us.

The next time you watch “The Bridge on the River Kwai” remember that Searle was one of those prisoners.

#2 Pete McDonnell
February/15/2011
@ 12:38 pm

This was inspiring. I always thought Searle’s work had magical properties; he’s one of the most brilliant illustrators of the past century.

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