Without any formal art training, Jean-Jacques Sempé has become one of the most famous French cartoonists. Born in Bordeaux, he started his career as a press illustrator, contributing to Sud-Ouest, Le Rire, Noir et Blanc and Ici Paris. In the 1950s, Sempé often used a character named Nicolas in his cartoons for Le Moustique. René Goscinny suggested that they should start a comic with this character, which resulted in the first version of 'Le Petit Nicolas'. The strip appeared in Le Moustique between 1954 and 1958 and was mainly based on Sempé's childhood memories.
Cartoon by J.J. Sempé (1964)
However, the comics format didn't suit Sempé and the project was dropped. By 1959 Sempé and Goscinny were making new stories with Nicholas for the newspaper supplement Sud Ouest Dimanche, this time as an illustrated text story. This became the format that made 'Le Petit Nicholas' famous. It also appeared in Pilote magazine from the first issue, and has been collected in books by publishers Denoël and Gallimard.
Also a successful illustrator for Paris-Match, Punch and L'Express, Sempé has also drawn for the US magazines The New York Times and The New Yorker. Several of his other work has also been collected in books, such as the 'Marcellin Cailou', 'Raoul Tabourin' and 'Monsieur Lambert' series.