Sem (artist)

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Georges Goursat
M. Sem.jpg
Born(1863-11-23)23 November 1863[1]
Died(1934-11-26)26 November 1934[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, surname Occupation Image
Alexandrovich, Vladimir Socialite Sem au pesage de Longchamp.jpg
Annunzio, Gabriele d' Writer Sem D'annunzio.jpg
Astruc, Gabriel Impresario Sem Astruc.jpg
Balthy, Louise [fr] Actress Sem Balthy Le Rire 1902.jpg
Bennett, Gordon Publisher Sem Bennett.jpg Sem Bennett Merode.jpg
Blanc, Edmond [fr] Politician Sem la tribune des proprietaires.jpg
Blériot, Louis Aviator Sem Bleriot.jpg
Boldini, Giovanni Painter Sem Boldini Helleu.jpg Sem Boldini Helleu 2.jpg
Borbon, Alfonso de King Sem Shah Alphonse.jpg
Brasseur, Albert [fr] Actor Sem Mealy Brasseur.jpg Sem Brasseur Le Rire 1902.jpg
Brieux, Eugène [fr] Writer Sem Brieux.jpg
Capel, Arthur "Boy" Polo player Sem Chanel Capel.jpg
Cappiello, Leonetto Poster artist Caricatures Cappiello Hervieu by Sem.jpg
Capus, Alfred Writer Sem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Castellane, Boni de Socialite Sem Castellane esquisse.jpg Sem Castellane.jpg
Chanel, Coco Designer Sem Chanel Capel.jpg Sem Chanel 1919.jpg
Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle Writer Sem Willy Colette Polaire.jpg
Croisset, Francis de Dramatist Caricatures Cappiello Hervieu by Sem.jpg
Deval, Marguerite Singer Sem Marguerite Deval Guyon fils.jpg
Donnay, Maurice [fr] Dramatist Sem Donnay 1907.jpg Sem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Doumer, Paul President Sem Doumer 1905.jpg
Ephrussi, Maurice [fr] Financier Sem la tribune des proprietaires.jpg
Feydeau, Georges Writer Sem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Forain, Jean-Louis Painter Sem Forain Caran d'Ache.jpg
Fursy, Henri Variety singer Sem Fursy.jpg
Gauthier-Villars, Henry Writer Sem Willy Colette Polaire.jpg
Guitry, Lucien Actor Sem Guitry Bataille.jpg Sem guitry chantecler.jpg Sem Reveillon au Cafe de Paris.jpg
Guitry, Sacha Actor Sem Sacha Guitry.jpg
Guyon, Charles-Alexandre [fr] Actor Sem Marguerite Deval Guyon fils.jpg
Hahn, Reynaldo Composer Sem Hahn.jpg
Adien Hébrard [fr] Journalist Sem Hebrard 1911.jpg
Helleu, Paul Painter Sem Boldini Helleu 2.jpg
Hervieu, Paul Dramatist Caricatures Cappiello Hervieu by Sem.jpg
Humbert, Charles [fr] Senator Sem Humbert.jpg
Lambert, Charles de Aviator Sem Lambert.jpg
Lafitte, Pierre [fr] Publisher Sem Bennett Merode.jpg
Latham, Hubert [fr] Aviator Sem Latham.jpg
Lavallière, Ève Actress Sem Lavalliere 1902.jpg Sem Lavalliere.jpg
Letellier, Henri [fr] Publisher Sem Bennett Merode.jpg
Lorrain, Jean Writer Lorrain, 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, Jules Composer Jules Massenet by Sem.jpg
Mendès, Catulle Writer Sem Mendès Porto-Riche.jpg
Mérode, Cléo de Dancer Sem Bennett Merode.jpg Sem Merode.jpg Sem Merode Pougy Lorrain.jpg
Montesquiou, Robert de Poet Sem (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, Paul Writer Sem Morand.jpg
Noailles, Anna de Writer Sem Noailles 1911.jpg Sem Noailles 2.jpg
Noailles, Emmanuel de Diplomat Sem Emmanuel Noailles.jpg
Pahlavi, Reza Shah Sem Shah Alphonse.jpg
Paquin, Jeanne Designer Sem Paquin.jpg
Pierpont Morgan, John Financier Sem Pierpont Morgan.jpg
Poiré, Emmanuel (Caran d'Ache) Cartoonist Sem Forain Caran d'Ache.jpg
Polaire Actress PolaireParSEM.jpg Sem Polaire.jpg Sem Willy Colette Polaire.jpg
Porto-Riche, Georges de [fr] Writer Sem Mendès Porto-Riche.jpg
Pougy, Liane de Dancer Sem Merode Pougy Lorrain.jpg
Puccini, Giacomo Composer Victorien Sardou et Giacomo Puccini par Sem.jpg
Rostand, Edmond Dramatist Sem Rostand.jpg Sem Rostand2.jpg
Rostand, Maurice Writer Maurice (Sem).jpg
Rougier, Henri Aviator Sem Rougier.jpg
Santos-Dumont, Alberto Aviator Sem Santos Dumont.jpg Alberto Santos-Dumont by Sem.jpg Sem Santos Dumont 2.jpg
Sardou, Victorien Dramatist Victorien Sardou et Giacomo Puccini par Sem.jpg
Vionnet, Madeleine Designer Sem Vionnet.jpg
Wall, Berry Socialite Wall 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. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. 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.


  • Bonnelle, Madeleine; Meneret, Marie-José (1979). SEM (in French). Périgueux: Pierre Fanlac. ISBN 2-86577-144-X.
  • Dini, Francesca (2006). Boldini, Helleu, Sem : protagonisti e miti della Belle Epoque (in Italian). Skira.

External links[edit]