It’s hard for me to describe how much I love the work of Jean-Jacques Sempé. The lightness of his touch when painting his watercolours, or pen and ink drawings; the emotion conveyed in just a few lines ; his colours … I have several books of his illustrations at home, including the collection of his covers for the New Yorker, and they are my turn-to reading on a quiet Sunday afternoon, when all I need is gentleness and calm, and something to make me smile.
The qualities I love in his drawings are the way that he sees the detail; the tenderness he has for the figures he portrays, his colours and his mischievous sense of humour. Very often his main characters are alone, small but brave, facing the big wide world.
Children are surrounded by much larger adults in a noisy colourful world. Business men are insignificant besides the skyscrapers of New York. Ballet dancers are lost in their own moves surrounded by the bustle of the city. A lone swimmer enjoys being carried by a wave; a musician walks through the park and kicks up the autumn leaves. An indolent cat lazes comfortably all day while all around him people are busy earning a living.
It is all about emotion, sensation and inner enjoyment. We the onlookers can see how small and fragile the characters are and yet they never look afraid. They are optimistic and joyful, and caught up in the beauty of life. And then there is his fantastic sense of colour. From the house at night time, to the autumn park, to the busy St Germain café or a beach in the south of France. His colours are pure and true.
Here I’m showing you just a few of my favourite Sempé illustrations, he has been very prolific, but if you are not familiar with his work then I can recommend Sempé à New York the collection of his covers for the New Yorker, and his book A Little Bit of Paris.
And you may like to know that if you wish to buy an original or a signed print of Sempé’s work, the best address is the Gallery Martine Gossieaux, here in Paris. Check them out on line, or pop into the gallery, 56 rue de l’Universite 75007.
And last but not least, I am over the moon to tell you that in My Stylish French Box this year, we will include a Sempé illustration each season. We are truly thrilled and honoured.