Soon to be 90 – “Little Nick” artist Jacques Sempé died


The French illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé, who became world famous with his series “Little Nick”, has passed away. Sempé died Thursday evening at the age of 89 in his holiday resort “peacefully” and “surrounded by his wife and close friends”. , Sempé’s biographer and friend Marc Lecarpentier explained to AFP. His wife Martine Gossieaux Sempé also confirmed the death of her husband, who would have turned 90 next week.

French head of state Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the late artist. “The delicate irony, the delicacy of intelligence, the jazz: we will not be able to forget Jean-Jacques Sempé,” Macron wrote on the online service Instagram. “We will miss his eye and his pen very much.” Sempé’s work was always characterized by lightness, at the same time “nothing emerged from the eye of the draftsman”.

“He was the smile and the poetry”
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed her condolences to Sempé’s family and friends on Twitter. “Sempé, that was the drawing and the text. It was the smile and the poetry.” Sempé’s readers would have laughed tears at times – today they would have shed tears of sorrow.

Sempé conceived the character of the little boy Nick, who lived in France in the 1950s, together with the author of “Asterix”, René Goscinny. The first story appeared on March 29, 1959 in the regional newspaper “Sud-Ouest Dimanche”.

Successful in 45 countries
Within six years, more than 200 episodes appeared about Nick, his ever-hungry friend Otto, the bespectacled geek Adalbert and Franz ready to be beaten. They later appeared as books and were translated into 30 languages. Sold 15 million copies in 45 countries, they have been filmed and adapted as an animated series.

Sempé himself said in 2018 about the series that it was “a way for him to relive the misery I experienced in my youth and to make sure that everything will be okay”. He was born on 17 August 1932 as an illegitimate child in the village of Pessac near Bordeaux. He was initially raised in a violent foster home until his mother took him back – exposing him to the violence of his stepfather.

Friendship with Goscinny
Sempé originally wanted to be a jazz pianist and left school at the age of 14 to join the army. But the military exercise was just as bad for him: Sempé started selling drawings to Parisian newspapers. While working for a news agency, he befriended Goscinny – thus laying the foundation for the later world success with “Little Nick”.

In the early years, however, hardly anyone was interested in the boy’s drawings. Sempé kept afloat financially with drawings for newspapers; they were ‘terrible’ years, Sempé said later.

Significant cover drawings in the “New Yorker”
A solid income brought Sempé only his work at the American magazine “New Yorker”, which hired him in 1978. “I was almost 50 and for the first time in my life I existed,” Sempé later said of this turning point in his life. In the years that followed, Sempé illustrated more front pages of the ‘New Yorker’, known for his artistically high-quality covers, than any other artist.

Source: Krone


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