«The cartoon is based on a more or less curious vision of existence», said the one who lovingly observed the cities in their time, Paris or New York; the music lover, fan of Duke Ellington, which sketched the living like notes sliding on the lines of a baroque score, as carried by the wind of contemporary speed, drowned in complex thoughts, dense crowds and detailed landscapes that sometimes reveal them, sometimes exceed them. The artist worked at length, the view hovering over the rooftops of the capital, sometimes for three weeks, and wide, to better reduce to the impression the detailed beauty, realistic but unreal, of his drawings. The subtlety of his line, inspired by his master Chaval, authorized the gentle mockery, the literary satire which uses litotes and metaphors to elevate the visible to the second degree, the literal sense in the figurative sense, suggested: “Drawing is an antidote to these meaningful highways, if only because it takes so long.”
Sempé laughs, but never mocks. Like the Flaubert of Bouvard and Pécuchet, whom he reads and admires, or of a Maupassant, he seeks the correctness of the point of view and the perfection of the form. His covers for the New Yorker, joined in 1978 and became the star following his fathers, Steinberg, Peter Arno, his press drawings in France-Dimanche, Le Nouvel Observateur, where Françoise Giroud brought him in 1965, Paris Match, Le Figaro, almost all the French press, his albums in bursts, one per year, are indeed as much works of art as works of critical laughter.
Sempé apologizes: "My clarinets are fake and my bikes can’t ride!" Yet his Petit Nicolas, born in 1959 out of a singular friendship and complicity with René Goscinny, existed all over the world. His noses on the peninsula, his bikes, his musicians, are as real as this world he watched with malice, and freed by his genius and his bias of people. From the title of his last published drawing, «Remember not to forget me», we will certainly not need, to remember Sempé.
I extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Martine Gossieaux, his daughter, Inga Sempé, and his loved ones.