Family, friends and fans have paid tribute to French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé, whose simple, humorous drawings graced the covers of The New Yorker magazine and earned him international recognition.
A funeral Mass for Sempé, known affectionately as JJ in the United States, was held on Friday at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church in Paris. Friends and family paid tribute to the artist, who died last week aged 89, and his legacy. A private funeral was held at the city’s famous Montparnasse Cemetery.
Outside the church, a poster of Sempé’s first New York cover sat next to a black-and-white portrait of him adorned with flowers. The cover of August 14, 1978 depicted the facade of a New York building, with a bald, bespectacled bird in a suit perched in a tall window and lit by rays of pale yellow sunlight.
The drawing personifies the artist’s gently ironic universe, sublimated by vivid watercolors and a breezy and seemingly effortless style. In his native France, he found fame with the illustrations for the classic series of children’s books “Le Petit Nicolas” (“Little Nicholas”) and specialized in drawings about the simple pleasures of life.
“It takes me a long time, weeks or even months to get it right,” Sempé told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview. your mind.”
Sempé captured the thin, fashionable haute bourgeoisie of Paris and the mustachioed and beret-wearing townspeople, all with thick noses and full of bicycles, baguettes, books and tractors. But he also found inspiration in The New Yorker’s hometown, the magazine noted in a tribute posted on Instagram.
“I love the colors of New York,” she said. “They are dynamic: bright yellows, greens, reds and blues. Paris, where I live, is beautiful but always grey. I love Paris too, but it’s not the same.”
He drew more than 100 covers for The New Yorker after meeting the magazine’s art director in Paris in 1978. Despite his unmistakable Frenchness, Sempé’s work struck a universal nerve, portraying human follies and neuroses that cross culture
“He marked several generations. You cannot find a reader of the print version of the New Yorker in the US who does not know who Sempé is,” said Francoise Mouly, the publication’s current art director, in an interview with the French newspaper. release
Mouly has praised his “universal way of addressing the point of view of individuals in everyday life, ordinary situations” in drawings that spoke to people from Paris to New York.
A 71-year-old French artist known as Gabs said Sempé inspired him to become a cartoonist.
“Sempé embodies Frenchness, the way she represented Paris, the small towns of France and the scenes of everyday life” and “a form of innocence and joy,” Gabs said at the funeral.
French novelist Benoit Dutertre gave a moving speech remembering his dear friend who loved to ride his bike and drink coffee in Left Bank cafes while smoking a cigarette, despite being ill in his last years.
“With a dash of humor, he was a great storyteller of France’s evolving society,” he said.
Born on August 17, 1932 in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, Sempé briefly followed in his father’s footsteps—who worked as a street vendor—as a bicycle delivery man for a wine merchant, then joined in the army and was sent to Paris for basic training.
There, he asked newspaper editors to persuade them to publish his drawings, he said in his autobiography. A series of cartoons, entitled “Le Petit Nicolas” and featuring a mischievous but good-hearted schoolboy, appeared in a Belgian newspaper. It would later become the series of books that proved Sempé’s most enduring success.
Anne Goscinny, the former wife of Rene Goscinny, the author of “Le Petit Nicolas” who died in 1977, addressed Sempé himself at the church service, saying: “You created the Petit Nicolas . You made the whole childhood smile. Today you meet (Goscinny) again, I’m sure, and I can hear you laughing until you cry.”
In 1962, Sempé published his first collection of drawings, “Rien n’est simple” (“Nothing is simple”). Some of his more than 40 books have been published in English in the US. Surviving are two children, Nicolas. and Catherine
Former AP reporter Jenny Barchfield contributed to this report.