Cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé dies aged 89

Cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé dies aged 89

The famous designer Jean-Jacques Sempé, co-creator of Petit Nicolas, died at the age of 89, his wife said on Thursday.

Little Nicolas has lost his second dad. The designer Jean-Jacques Sempé, known worldwide for his minimalist drawings with delicate and offbeat humor, has died at the age of 89. Born in 1932, he was a privileged witness of the 20th century, whose evolutions and flaws he sketched with an often grating gaze.

“Comedian designer Jean-Jacques Sempé passed away peacefully (Thursday) evening, August 11 (2022), in his 89th year, in his vacation home, surrounded by his wife and close friends,” said Marc Lecarpentier. , his biographer and friend, in a statement to AFP

A privileged witness of the 20th century

Became a draftsman by chance, this child from Gironde, born in a poor environment, dreamed of a career in music, before falling in love with drawing as a teenager. “It was easier to find a pencil and paper than a piano…”, he will tell in The world in 2018. Leaving school at the age of 14, after the war he made his way into the world of press cartoonists.

His encounter with Goscinny in the 1950s changed his life. The draftsman and the screenwriter forged a deep friendship, which led them to create together, on March 29, 1959, in South West Sunday, The little Nicolasa timeless work praising a fantasized French society.

Drawing for Le Petit Nicolas plays sports (2014)
Drawing for Little Nicolas plays sports (2014) © © IMAV editions /Goscinny – Sempé

Sempé is inspired by his son to name his hero, while Goscinny invents the first names of his friends Geoffroy, Eudes, Rufus, Agnan, Clotaire. The designer, a turbulent student in his youth, also lends him his memories of fights and summer camps and his passion for sport and football in particular. worldwide success, The little Nicolas sells five million copies, but the adventure ends after a fifth collection, Joachim is in troubleappeared in 1964.

From “Raoul Taburin” they have “New Yorker”

Sempé began at this time to publish solo works. He signs several albums resembling tales, such as Marcellin Caillou (1969), The Social Ascension of Monsieur Lambert (1975) and Raoul Tabrin (1995). He has produced some thirty books, the last of which, Stay focuscame out in 2020.

Detail of "Fresh intoxication"drawing by Jean-Jacques Sempé, on the cover of the New Yorker on August 21, 2006.
Detail of “Fresh Intoxication”, drawing by Jean-Jacques Sempé, on the cover of the New Yorker on August 21, 2006. © Jean-Jacques Sempé

Sempé collaborates with several prestigious journals such as Paris Match, The new observer and the new yorkerof which he has signed a hundred “one” since 1978. “The New Yorker, it was an unimaginable dream, like entering the orchestra of Duke Ellington”, he confided to the World. “My first cover was a guy who was reluctant to fly. I was lucky because it was very successful.”

Considered one of the greatest designers, Sempé had continued to draw until his last breath. Considered by the younger generations of designers as a model, he was particularly adored by Catherine Meurisse and Joann Sfar. The latter has also taken over from him in Paris Match.

An apparently gruff man, Sempé was like his line: simple and delicate. Anxious and shy, he rarely indulged in the confidence game, he told his friend Marc Lecarpentier in a 2011 documentary: “I am panicked as soon as I am asked a question. I am afraid of being wrong. I I’m afraid of not telling the truth (…) because there are things I don’t want to say.” He preferred to draw them.

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