Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ronald Searle cartoons go on show to help breast cancer charities

Private drawings he created while his wife suffered from the disease will be on display at Cartoon Museum in London

Maev Kennedy The Guardian Monday 14 February 2011

Monica and Ronald Searle at home in France. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

Cheerful Mrs Mole pottered happily around her idyllic home, stitching patchwork, making cakes, stirring pots, arranging flowers, at an absolutely gruesome time in the lives of the cartoonist Ronald Searle and his wife, Monica.The complete collection of Mrs Mole drawings, created by Searle and intended as private, bittersweet jokes never meant for publication, will go on display at the Cartoon Museum in London this week.
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."
She was pronounced clear of the cancer in 1975, and today they still live in Mrs Mole's beautiful house.
Searle, whose first published drawings recall the three and a half years he survived in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, and who went on to create the hellish schoolgirls from St Trinians and the immortal Nigel Molesworth, has been awarded a CBE in Britain and the Legion d'Honneur in his adopted home in France. He is a trustee of the Cartoon Museum, which mounted a retrospective last year to mark his 90th birthday.
The museum is working with breast cancer charities on the exhibition, which runs until 20 March.
Image courtesy of Ronald Searle

More Mrs Mole herehere and here

Brian Sibley on Mrs Mole here


Elliot said...

I went to the private view of this, Matt. Really wonderful stuff - and amazingg how Searle manages to control his splattery, stuttering lines even at such a small scale.

Nelson said...

!! I'm astonished to discover from your blog (confirming against my initial disbelief from Wikipedia) that the great man is still alive. I feel I should do something. Send him a card when his birthday next comes up? I checked and discovered we share the same date, he being 22 years older than I.

Thank you so much, Matt J!