Jean-Jacques Sempé has something of a varied CV. Having been expelled from school, he went on to become a door-to-door tooth powder salesman, a soldier and a comic book artist, before going on to creating some rather iconic covers for The New Yorker and cartoons for Paris Match.
His sketch-like, kinetic style is instantly recognisable, capturing fleeting moments and peculiar characteristics in simple pen-work and watercolour. Each image, no matter how uncomplicated, manages to tell a unique little story, often populated with large-nosed fellows, pneumatic women and no shortage of calamities.
Now, more than 250 of his images have been drawn together in a new Phaidon book designed by Sarah Boris, joyfully titled C’est La Vie! The Wonderful World of Jean-Jacques Sempé. Even though the captions are translated from French (by Asterix the Gaul translator Anthea Bell), they’re no less hilarious – each vignette succinctly distils the hilarity in human life from some of the most banal scenarios. As Sempé himself puts it: “What I like so much about cartoons is the way thy can express certain ideas discreetly. It is a way of talking about yourself without really seeming to do so.”
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