George Goursat "Sem" (1863-1934)
Georges Goursat was born in 1863 to an upper-middle class family in Périgueux, France. The wealth he inherited from his father at age 21 allowed him to enjoy a gilded youth. In 1888 he self-published his first three albums of caricatures, signing some as “SEM,” allegedly as a tribute to Amédée de Noé, who signed his caricatures for Le Monde illustré as “Cham.”
Goursat settled in Bordeaux from 1890 to 1899, at which time he published more albums his first press caricatures in La Petite Gironde.When he discovered the work of Leonetto Cappiello, his style matured and became more simple and precise. He also made trips to Paris during this period, and in 1891 he designed two posters printed in the workshop of Jules Chéret for the singer Paulus. He published his first caricatures of artists in L’Illustration and Le Rire.
From 1898 to 1900, Goursat lived in Marseille. During this time, he met Jean Lorrain, who convinced him to move to Paris. He arrived in Paris in March of 1900, at the time of the opening of the Universal Exposition. He chose horse races as his way of entry into high society. In June of 1900 he self-published a new album, Le Turf, with caricatures of prominent Parisian socialites, including: Marquess Boni de Castellane, Prince Trubetskoy, Polaire, and Gustave de Rothschild. This album was so successful that it made Goursat famous overnight. In October of the same year, he published another album, Paris-Trouville, which saw the same success. Nine other albums followed until 1913.
In 1904, Goursat received the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor). In 1909, he exhibited with the painter August Roubbille, first in Paris, and then in Monte Carlo and London.
At the start of World War I, Goursat became involved as a war correspondent for Le Journal. Some of his rather “chauvinistic” articles had an “enormous impact.” Ten of these articles were published in 1917 in Un pékin sur le front. In 1916 and 1918, Goursat published two albums of Croquis de Guerre (War sketches). The style of these sketches is completely different fro his previous work. He also designed posters for war bonds.
Following the war, Goursat returned to the caricatures that made him famous. In 1919, he published Le Grand Monde à l’envers (High Society upside down). In 1923, he published 3 albums under the title of Le Nouveau Monde (The New World). That same year, he was made an officer of the Légion d’honneur. In 1929, he was severely impoverished by the economic crisis. In 1934, Goursat died of a heart attack at age 71.
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