The honors to the late cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé were led by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Thursday.
According to Marc Lecarpentier, his friend and biographer, the co-creator of Le Petit Nicholas passed away in his vacation home surrounded by his family and friends. He was 89.
Borne praised Sempé’s versatility and sense of humor in a tweet that featured the cover of one of his books.
“When you were laughing with Sempé, sometimes tears would appear in your eyes. It’s tears of emotion tonight,” Borne added.
Sempé, who was born in Pessac in the Gironde area of southwest France in 1932, initially intended to pursue a career in music before discovering his passion for sketching.
“It was easier to find a pencil and paper than a piano,” he told the French newspaper Le Monde in an interview in 2018. He left school at 14 and made his way after the second world war as a salesman and as a freelance cartoonist for newspapers. Change His change of fortune came In Paris in the mid 1950s when he met the cartoon caption writer René Goscinny in the offices of the Belgian press agency World Press on the Champs-Elysées. The two developed a friendship and produced cartoons together.
In March 1959 they conjured up Le Petit Nicolas for Sud Ouest Dimanche The cartoons – offering up idealised vignettes of French society – became an international success. Le Petit Nicolas sold five million copies before the series ended in 1964 after a fifth collection, Joachim a des ennuis. Sempé continued to work on solo projects such as Marcellin Caillou in 1969 and L’Ascension sociale de Monsieur Lambert in 1975.
He also collaborated with top magazines such as Paris Match, Le Nouvel Observateur and The New Yorker, for which he created around 100 “front pages”. “The New Yorker was an unimaginable dream, like joining Duke Ellington’s orchestra,” he confided to Le Monde. “My first cover, it was a guy who hesitated to fly. I was lucky because it was very successful.” The last of his 30 books, Garder le cap, was released in 2020.
Younger cartoonists looked up to him as a role model, and Catherine Meurisse and Joann Sfa were especial fans.
Sempé, who came across as being stern, acknowledged that he felt uncomfortable with fame’s trappings.
In a 2011 documentary, he said to Lecarpentier: “As soon as I get a question, I start to freak out. I worry about making a mistake. There are things I don’t want to express, so I’m worried of not being honest “.