Artwork by Petit Nicolas illustrator Sempé set for first-ever auction

The artist’s work has appeared on hundreds of covers of The New Yorker magazine, as well as Paris Match and Le Figaro

18 June 2021
Jean-Jacques Sempé

Jean-Jacques Sempé's depiction of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, one of the pieces on sale at the auction Pic: Jean-Jacques Sempé / Artcurial

Some 54 pieces of original art by the French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé will be on sale at an auction for the first time tomorrow (June 19). 

The artist, known most commonly as Sempé, is famous for illustrating the series of French children’s books Le Petit Nicolas. His work has also featured on over 100 covers of The New Yorker magazine, in Paris Match, Le Figaro, and Le Nouvel Observateur.

The artworks on sale span Sempé’s long career, from the 1960s until today. The collection documents everyday scenes from the artist’s perspective, including depictions of Parisian life, the Jardin du Luxembourg, a bike ride, an outing to the opera or a night bus crossing a Parisian bridge.

Prices are listed as ranging from €8,000 to €50,000. 

Eric Leroy, an art expert and organiser of the sale at Paris-based auction house Artcurial, said the auction was an occasion not to be missed.

“Appearing on the art market for the first time will be an exceptional ensemble of drawings by this poetic genius, full of humour,” he said.

Sempé was born in Bordeaux in 1932 and published his first drawings in the local and then national press in the 1950s. His first collection of cartoons was published in 1962.

He began collaborating with René Goscinny, the creator of the Asterix comic book series, at the end of the 1950s to create the popular series of children’s books Le Petit Nicolas, which depict an idealised version of childhood in 1950s France.

The auction will take place on Saturday (June 19) from 14:30 at Artcurial auction house in Paris. 

You can follow the event live on Artcurial’s website here, where you can also make bids for the artworks. 

L'autobus Pic: Jean-Jacques Sempé / Artcurial

The 4th of July (Left) and the Musicians in Central Park (Right) Pic: Jean-Jacques Sempé / Artcurial

Le Pianiste Pic: Jean-Jacques Sempé / Artcurial

Jean-Jacques Sempé is one of France's most celebrated cartoonists, and his work has appeared often on the cover of The New Yorker magazine Pic: D.R. / provided by Artcurial

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