French cartoonist and New Yorker cover artist Jean-Jacques Sempé has passed away.
Jean-Jacques Sempé, who illustrated the much-loved Little Nicolas series of French children’s books, has died aged 89.
“The cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé died peacefully [on] Thursday evening, 11 August, 2022, in his 89th year, at his holiday residence, surrounded by his wife and his close friends,” said Marc Lecarpentier, his biographer and friend, in a statement to Agence France-Presse.
Jean-Jacques Sempé was a French cartoonist and illustrator, whose crowded cartoon panels gave gentle commentary on the absurdity and banality of everyday city life. Since the 1950s, his drawings – including sequential ones – have appeared in publications throughout France, including Sud-Ouest Dimanche, Ici Paris and Paris Match…Together with writer René Goscinny, Sempé created the charming adventures of ‘Le Petit Nicolas’ (‘Little Nicolas’, 1954-1965) – originally as a comic strip, then as an illustrated text feature – starring a Parisian school boy telling about his everyday life.
Besides magazine cartoons, Jean-Jacques Sempé also illustrated posters, advertisements, postcards and stickers, as well as books … Following the success of ‘Le Petit Nicolas’, publisher Denoël has also released over 25 book collections with Sempé cartoons, starting with ‘Rien N’est Simple’ (1962), ‘Tout Se Complique’ (1963) and ‘Sauve Qui Peut’ (1964).
Today the [Nicholas] books are international best-sellers with more than 15 million copies sold in 45 countries, and have been adapted into a popular film and cartoon series.
But in 1959 they went largely unnoticed, and he continued to sell drawings to newspapers to make ends meet, an early career he described as “horrible”.
It was only in 1978 when he was hired by The New Yorker that he found sustainable success. “I was almost 50 and for the first time in my life, I existed! I had finally found my family,” he said.
In 1978, he was asked to submit cover drawings to The New Yorker magazine, which he did for over forty years, making over a hundred contributions.