Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Have you ever looked at the world through the eyes of Jean-Jacques Sempé? If not, give it a try. It’s so much more fun. Over 300 original drawings of one of the most famous French cartoonists are on display at Hôtel de Ville. You shouldn’t miss this exhibition.
The French love Jean-Jacques Sempé, and they are not alone. The whole world does. Sempé, 79 years old already, has made thousands and thousands of drawings. His books are translated into twenty-five languages, his drawings have appeared countless times as covers of the New Yorker, and who doesn’t know the adventures of the Petit Nicolas illustrated by Sempé?
If you walk into the exhibition at the town hall, you’ll be surprised. It’s not Picasso on display, but there are as many people as if it were. Hundreds and hundreds came on the day of the opening. The Parisians apparently love their Sempé and the way he reflects them. If you observe them, you’ll probably see people looking at his drawings and laughing out loud. Including yourself.
Sempé doesn’t see a minor art in the cartoon. On the contrary. For him it’s like jazz music, it’s humility. “I just wanted to draw happy people”, Sempé once said. After a childhood during which he hadn’t been pampered, but mostly beaten by his mother, this wasn’t the worst decision he could have made.
As a young man, Sempé moved to Paris and joined the army, since it was “the only place that would give me a job and a bed,” he explained. He then settled on the Left Bank, between Montparnasse and Saint-Germain des Prés, and became friends with Françoise Sagan, Jacques Tati, Jacques Prévert, René Goscinny and others.
His drawings are funny, but they often have a melancholic twist. Remember the bike race with a lonely driver far, far behind? I guess, it represents Sempé himself. Drawing cartoons is probably a way for him to keep away the bad spirits of the past.
Photo above: Jean-Jacques Sempé by Joel Saget, © AFPSempé – Un peu de Paris et d’ailleurs – From 21 October 2011 to 11 February 2012 – FINISHED!!