Death of the cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé at the age of 89

French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé, known for his illustrations of the adventures of “Little Nicholas” and his cartoons, died Thursday at the age of 89, his wife Martine Gossieaux Sempé told AFP.

“The humorist Jean-Jacques Sempé died 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.

Great French master of humor and poetry, a mixture of derision and modesty, Sempé has traced since the 1950s until today a work full of bonhommie: drawings for the New Yorker, Paris Match or L’Express to the albums of Petit Nicolas. Sempé was one of the most sought-after artists by the New Yorker, with a hundred covers drawn by his hand.

Sold 15 million copies
Born in 1932 in Pessac, near Bordeaux, the cartoonist published a dozen albums in his career, Saint Tropez, Tout se complique and especially Le Petit Nicolas , sold today to some 15 million copies.

A natural child, beaten and stammering, Sempé did not really have the childhood of his hero Nicolas, whom he grew up with Goscinny in an idealized France of the 1950s. He sold his first illustrations in 1950 to Sud Ouest, which he signed “DRO” (from “to draw” in English).

Since the Petit Nicolas, which he created in 1959 with René Goscinny, Jean-Jacques Sempé has published almost one album a year and signed a hundred front pages in the press.

A bus on a bridge crossing the Seine at night, musicians, cyclists, a fire-eater, scenes in Central Park, Saint-Tropez or the Jardin du Luxembourg… In each of his works, we find his favorite themes: the smallness of man in nature, his solitude in the city, his disputes, his ridiculousness and his excessive ambitions, the limits of team spirit.