Jean-Jacques Sempé, Cartoonist of Droll Whimsy, Dies at 89

French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sampe, known in the United States for his illustrations for children’s books and the cover of The New Yorker magazine, died Thursday at the age of 89.

His wife, Martine Gossieaux Sempé, announced his death to Agence France-Presse. His biographer Marc Lecalpentier said Sempe died at his villa, but he did not reveal where it was, Sempe had his home and studio in Paris.

In a night panorama of the sleeping city’s skyscrapers, Sempe illuminated the ballerinas in the windows. On the towering Brooklyn Bridge, a lone Sempe cyclist was gallantly running around. And his scruffy little genius boiled a soft-boiled egg in front of a big chalkboard smothered in Einstein’s calculations.

It is a timeless storytelling without words, a kind of pictorial haiku, one that never went to art school, but spent half a century evading the means of life on the drawing board and being mischievous. It was a funny whim of an illustrator aiming for the mythical world of a male student. A dreamer, a nosy neighbor, a vacationer, a swooning lover.

Beloved in France, popular around the world, and one of America’s favorite cartoonists, Sempe drew over 100 New Yorker covers for the Society, which began in 1978. His comics have been published in other magazines and newspapers and collected in dozens of anthologies.

And, in collaboration with writer René Goscinny, beginning in 1959, he created a series for children based on the escapades of Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicolas), a nostalgic version of childhood in post-war France. I drew an illustration for the book. Their first volume was an overnight success, followed by four sequels, before long the series became an international classic and was reprinted in France, the United States, and many other countries.

Sempe, who also wrote graphic children’s novels, eventually produced or co-authored over 30 books, translated into 37 languages, and sold millions of copies worldwide.

The reddish-white-haired man lived and worked in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, but often traveled to New York to consult with editors and publishers and to collect ideas for spider pen and ink paintings. Did. He makes extensive use of vivid watercolors and blank spaces. His long, wide perspectives embraced sea and sky, large forests, or monumental rooms that diminished the small dramas that were his focus.

His subjects were office workers, housewives, delicate girls, frustrated commuters, pretentious intellectuals, musicians, roller skaters, and bicycle riders, and he adored them because he was one of them. His men were good-looking, bald, with neat mustaches, and sometimes wore berets. The women were often double-chinned ladies in polka-dotted frocks.

“He remains a quintessential Frenchman, a national institution that has attained near-universal appeal,” wrote Charles McGrath in the New York Times in 2006. All the cars still look like Duchevaux or his 1950s Citroen, with mansard roofs, tall windows and wrought-iron balconies. ”

Each cover of the New Yorker was like a scene in a larger story, and Sempé’s massive backdrop exaggerated the effect. On October 24, 2005, a small dancer in a tutu sat on a bench under the great ballerina statue in his space for a giant performance, waiting to be called. On November 14, 2011, it was a little boy with his violin case, towering bass, giant drums, and a menacing maestro staring into the studio with his grand banging on his piano.

On the gentle side was the Sempe cat. Luxuriate in fluffy bedspreads by the picture windows overlooking Manhattan. Another perched on Newell’s post on the railing and was the master of his empty house. In one multi-panel cartoon of his Sempé, a single autumn leaf was shown spiraling down from a tree to the ground and a hand throwing it into another garden.

Although he provided modern touches such as mobile phones and computers, bicycles and roller-skating often kept his picture stubbornly in the retro era, and the world of classical music and performing arts was his work. gave timelessness to Anyone who goes to a concert can recognize the symptoms.

Sempe camouflages the appreciative audience grunts as the orchestra performers habitually wave their arms to distract others on stage, causing the entire orchestra to become the conductor. It started with a pianist, and was depicted with a daisy chain that unwound a row of strings and waved his arms. and horns, and finally ended with a small percussionist bowing beamingly backwards.

With caption “C’est La Vie!” He painted four of his couples on separate boats while on a fishing vacation. Women gossiping at the stern, nailed together.

To show the pride of French housewives who are committed to cleanliness, Sempe painted a madam polishing the tracks that run just outside the main gate.

For sheer pleasure, he painted a little girl jumping rope on the roof of a row house, behind her towering the metropolis like a spectator of the future.

And for the sheer happiness of being glad to be alive, there was a Sempe man beachfront alone in the dunes at the end of a perfect September day, capped to the incoming Atlantic.

In 1980 Sempe told The Times:

Jean-Jacques Sempe was born on August 17, 1932 in Pessac, a suburb of Bordeaux, to Ulysse Sempe and Juliette Marsan. As a boy, he loved to graffiti, but was an indifferent student and was expelled from school for lack of discipline.He took employment exams for the post office, banks, and railways, but failed them all. was. He sold toothpaste door to door and delivered wine for a while.

At 17, he desperately lied about his age and enlisted in the French army.

“It was the only place that gave me a job and a bed,” he told The Times.

Reprimanded for being caught doing graffiti during security, he was sent to the fence when his age was found out. After his discharge he moved to Paris and in 1952 won the Prize for Young Artists. He began selling illustrations to the magazines Paris Match and L’Express and the comic book Le Moustique, where he drew a schoolboy called Nicolas.

Mr. Goscinny offered to collaborate on the book, resulting in “Le Petit Nicolas,” told from the boy’s point of view. A sequel was produced. An American edition was published in 1962, and many volumes were published over the decades that followed.

Sempe has been married three times and divorced twice. His first wife was the painter Christina Courtois. He and his second wife, the artist and illustrator Mette Iver, had a daughter, Inga Sempe, born in 1968.

Complete information about survivors was not immediately available.

Cartoons by Charles Adams, Saul Steinberg, and James Thurber inspired Sempe to paint The New Yorker. His cartoon anthologies include Nothing Is Simple (1962), Everything Is Complicated (1963), Sunny Spells (1999) and Mixed Messages (2003).

I also write graphic novels. “Martin Pebble” (1969), about a blushing boy. “The Musician” (1980) offers a whimsical glimpse into the world of music.

Sempé found metier in the past. “I love painting street scenes, which means I have to paint cars, but I hate painting modern cars,” he told British newspaper The Independent in 2006. increase. .

“For me,” he added, “the modern world lacks charm. I’m not saying it was better in the old days. It wasn’t. looked better, or at least more interesting.”

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