Sem (artist)

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Georges Goursat
M. Sem.jpg
Born(1863-11-23)23 November 1863[1]
Died26 November 1934(1934-11-26)[2]
Other namesSem
Known forcaricatures, posters
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Georges Goursat
M. Sem.jpg
Born(1863-11-23)23 November 1863[1]
Died26 November 1934(1934-11-26)[2]
Other namesSem
Known forcaricatures, posters

Georges Goursat (1863–1934), known as Sem, was a French caricaturist famous during the Belle Époque.

Life and works[edit]

Youth (1863–1900)[edit]

Self portrait (1888).
Goursat's first poster (1891).
First caricatures in Le Rire (1897).
Caricature of various individuals playing roulette by Sem, 1920

Georges Goursat was born and raised in an upper-middle-class family from Périgueux.[3] The wealth inherited from his father at the age of 21[4] allowed him to sustain a gilded youth.[5]

In 1888 he self published in Périgueux his first three albums of caricatures, signing some as "SEM"[6] (Figure, left), allegedly as a tribute[7] to Amédée de Noé who signed his caricatures for Le Monde illustré as "Cham".[8]

From 1890 to 1898, he settled for a few years in Bordeaux.[9] During this period, he published more albums and his first press caricatures in La Petite Gironde (fr)[10] and discovered the work of Leonetto Cappiello.[11] His style matured, becoming both simpler and more precise.[12]

During the same period, he made trips to Paris. In 1891, he designed two posters printed in the workshop of Jules Chéret (Figure, right) for the singer Paulus (fr).[11] He published his first caricatures of artists in L'Illustration (Albert Brasseur (fr)) and Le Rire (Paulus, Polin and Yvette Guilbert[i. 1]).[11]

From 1898 to 1900, he lived in Marseille.[13][i. 2] During this stay, he met Jean Lorrain who convinced him to live in Paris.[14]

Caricature women on a boat being sailed by a sailor by Sem, 1925

Belle Époque (1900–1914)[edit]

Goursat arrived in Paris in March 1900, at the time of the opening of the Universal Exposition.[15]

He picked horse races[i. 3] as his way of entry in high society.[15] In June, three months after his arrival, he self-published a new album, Le Turf, with caricatures of many prominent Parisian socialites (Marquess Boni de Castellane, Prince Trubetskoy, Count Clermont-Tonnerre, Baron Alphonse and Gustave de Rothschild, Polaire).[15] The success of this album made him famous overnight.[16] In October of the same year, he published another album, Paris-Trouville, with the same success. Nine others followed until 1913.[17]

In 1904, Goursat received the Légion d'honneur.[18] In 1909, he exhibited with the painter Auguste Roubille, first in Paris, then in Monte Carlo and London. a diorama, composed of hundreds of wooden figurines "of all the merely Paris celebrities".[19]

World War I (1914–1918)[edit]

Aged over 50 at the start of World War I, Goursat was not drafted.[20] He nevertheless involved himself as a war correspondent for Le Journal.[20] Some of his rather "chauvinistic" articles had an "enormous impact".[21] Ten were published in 1917 in Un pékin sur le front. Two others were incorporated in 1923 in another book, La Ronde de Nuit.[22] In 1916 and 1918 Goursat published two albums of Croquis de Guerre (War sketches). Their style is completely different from his previous work.[21] He also designed posters for war bonds.[23]

Années Folles (1918–1934)[edit]

After the war, Goursat came back to the kind of caricatures that made him famous. In 1919, he published Le Grand Monde à l'envers (High Society upside down).[24] Around 1923, he published 3 almums under the general title of Le Nouveau Monde (The New World).[25] In 1923, he was made an officer of the Légion d'honneur.[26] In 1929, he was severely impoverished by the economic crisis.[27] After a heart attack in 1933,[28] he died in 1934.[2]

Personalities caricatured by Goursat[edit]

Name, surnameOccupationImage
Alexandrovich, VladimirSocialiteSem au pesage de Longchamp.jpg
Annunzio, Gabriele d'WriterSem D'annunzio.jpg
Astruc, GabrielImpresarioSem Astruc.jpg
Balthy, LouiseActressSem Balthy Le Rire 1902.jpg
Bennett, GordonPublisherSem Bennett.jpg Sem Bennett Merode.jpg
Blanc, EdmondPoliticianSem la tribune des proprietaires.jpg
Blériot, LouisAviatorSem Bleriot.jpg
Boldini, GiovanniPainterSem Boldini Helleu.jpg Sem Boldini Helleu 2.jpg
Borbon, Alfonso deKingSem Shah Alphonse.jpg
Brasseur, AlbertActorSem Mealy Brasseur.jpg Sem Brasseur Le Rire 1902.jpg
Brieux, EugèneWriterSem Brieux.jpg
Capel, Arthur "Boy"Polo playerSem Chanel Capel.jpg
Cappiello, LeonettoPoster artistCaricatures Cappiello Hervieu by Sem.jpg
Capus, AlfredWriterSem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Castellane, Boni deSocialiteSem Castellane esquisse.jpg Sem Castellane.jpg
Chanel, CocoDesignerSem Chanel Capel.jpg Sem Chanel 1919.jpg
Colette, Sidonie-GabrielleWriterSem Willy Colette Polaire.jpg
Croisset, Francis deDramatistCaricatures Cappiello Hervieu by Sem.jpg
Deval, MargueriteSingerSem Marguerite Deval Guyon fils.jpg
Donnay, MauriceDramatistSem Donnay 1907.jpg Sem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Doumer, PaulPresidentSem Doumer 1905.jpg
Ephrussi, MauriceFinancierSem la tribune des proprietaires.jpg
Feydeau, GeorgesWriterSem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Forain, Jean-LouisPainterSem Forain Caran d'Ache.jpg
Fursy, HenriVariety singerSem Fursy.jpg
Gauthier-Villars, HenryWriterSem Willy Colette Polaire.jpg
Guitry, LucienActorSem Guitry Bataille.jpg Sem guitry chantecler.jpg Sem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Guitry, SachaActorSem Sacha Guitry.jpg
Guyon, Charles-AlexandreActorSem Marguerite Deval Guyon fils.jpg
Hahn, ReynaldoComposerSem Hahn.jpg
Adien HébrardJournalistSem Hebrard 1911.jpg
Helleu, PaulPainterSem Boldini Helleu 2.jpg
Hervieu, PaulDramatistCaricatures Cappiello Hervieu by Sem.jpg
Humbert, CharlesSenatotSem Humbert.jpg
Lambert, Charles deAviatorSem Lambert.jpg
Lafitte, PierrePublisherSem Bennett Merode.jpg
Latham, HubertAviatorSem Latham.jpg
Lavalliere, EveActressSem Lavalliere 1902.jpg Sem Lavalliere.jpg
Letellier, HenriPublisherSem Bennett Merode.jpg
Lorrain, JeanWriterLorrain, Jean (1855-1906) par Sem (Georges Goursat, 1863-1934).jpg Lorrain, Jean (1855-1906) par Sem (Georges Goursat, 1863-1934) - 2.jpg Sem Merode Pougy Lorrain.jpg Sem Lorrain.jpg
Massenet, JulesComposerJules Massenet by Sem.jpg
Mendès, CatulleWriterSem Mendès Porto-Riche.jpg
Mérode, Cléo deDancerSem Bennett Merode.jpg Sem Merode.jpg Sem Merode Pougy Lorrain.jpg
Montesquiou, Robert dePoetSem (Georges Goursat, 1863-1934) - Robert de Montesquiou (1891).jpg Montesquiou at Charvet.jpg Montesquiou by Sem.jpg Sem Montesquiou Charvet.jpg Sem montesquiou en amerique.jpg
Morand, PaulWriterSem Morand.jpg
Noailles, Anna deWriterSem Noailles 1911.jpg Sem Noailles 2.jpg
Noailles, Emmanuel deDiplomatSem Emmanuel Noailles.jpg
Pahlavi, RezaShahSem Shah Alphonse.jpg
Paquin, JeanneDesignerSem Paquin.jpg
Pierpont Morgan, JohnFinancierSem Pierpont Morgan.jpg
Poiré, Emmanuel (Caran d'Ache)CartoonistSem Forain Caran d'Ache.jpg
PolaireActressPolaireParSEM.jpg Sem Polaire.jpg Sem Willy Colette Polaire.jpg
Porto-Riche, Georges deWriterSem Mendès Porto-Riche.jpg
Pougy, Liane deDancerSem Merode Pougy Lorrain.jpg
Puccini, GiacomoComposerVictorien Sardou et Giacomo Puccini par Sem.jpg
Rostand, EdmondDramatistSem Rostand.jpg Sem Rostand2.jpg
Rostand, MauriceWriterMaurice (Sem).jpg
Rougier, HenriAviatorSem Rougier.jpg
Santos-Dumont, AlbertoAviatorSem Santos Dumont.jpg Alberto Santos-Dumont by Sem.jpg Sem Santos Dumont 2.jpg
Sardou, VictorienDramatistVictorien Sardou et Giacomo Puccini par Sem.jpg
Vionnet, MadeleineDesignerSem Vionnet.jpg
Wall, BerrySocialiteWall sem.jpg


  1. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 13)
  2. ^ a b (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 171)
  3. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 14)
  4. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 18)
  5. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 19)
  6. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, pp. 21–23)
  7. ^ Dixmier, Michel (2007). Quand le crayon attaque: images satiriques et opinion publique en France, 1814–1918 (in French). Autrement. p. 167. ISBN 978-2-7467-1052-8. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Guerrand, Roger-Henri. "SEM Georges Goursat dit (1863–1934)" (in French). Encyclopaedia Universalis. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  9. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, pp. 25–33)
  10. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 25)
  11. ^ a b c (Bonnelle, Meneret, pp. 30–33)
  12. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 26)
  13. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 35)
  14. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 41)
  15. ^ a b c (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 45)
  16. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 46)
  17. ^ "La Belle Époque". Association Sem. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Bloc-notes parisien". Le Gaulois (in French). 15 August 1904. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  19. ^ Pollard, Percival (1911). Vagabond Journeys: The Human Comedy at Home and Abroad. p. 42. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  20. ^ a b (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 100)
  21. ^ a b (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 112)
  22. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 102)
  23. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 116)
  24. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 121)
  25. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 123)
  26. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 130)
  27. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 136)
  28. ^ (Bonnelle, Meneret, p. 170)


  1. ^ Goursat, Georges. "Les demi-vieilles" (in French). Joconde. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Goursat, Georges. "Le port de Marseille" (in French). Réunion des Musées Nationaux. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Flameng, François; Vizzavona, François Antoine (1913). "Portrait de M. Sem, souvenir d'Ascot" (in French). Réunion des Musées Nationaux. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 


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