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

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


Life and worksEdit

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 GoursatEdit

Name, surname Occupation Image
Alexandrovich, Vladimir Socialite  
Annunzio, Gabriele d' Writer  
Astruc, Gabriel Impresario  
Balthy, Louise [fr] Actress  
Bennett, Gordon Publisher    
Blanc, Edmond [fr] Politician  
Blériot, Louis Aviator  
Boldini, Giovanni Painter    
Borbon, Alfonso de King  
Brasseur, Albert [fr] Actor    
Brieux, Eugène [fr] Writer  
Capel, Arthur "Boy" Polo player  
Cappiello, Leonetto Poster artist  
Capus, Alfred Writer  
Castellane, Boni de Socialite    
Chanel, Coco Designer    
Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle Writer  
Croisset, Francis de Dramatist  
Deval, Marguerite Singer  
Donnay, Maurice [fr] Dramatist    
Doumer, Paul President  
Ephrussi, Maurice [fr] Financier  
Feydeau, Georges Writer  
Forain, Jean-Louis Painter  
Fursy, Henri Variety singer  
Gauthier-Villars, Henry Writer  
Guitry, Lucien Actor      
Guitry, Sacha Actor  
Guyon, Charles-Alexandre [fr] Actor  
Hahn, Reynaldo Composer  
Adien Hébrard [fr] Journalist  
Helleu, Paul Painter  
Hervieu, Paul Dramatist  
Humbert, Charles [fr] Senator  
Lambert, Charles de Aviator  
Lafitte, Pierre [fr] Publisher  
Latham, Hubert [fr] Aviator  
Lavallière, Ève Actress    
Letellier, Henri [fr] Publisher  
Lorrain, Jean Writer        
Massenet, Jules Composer  
Mendès, Catulle Writer  
Mérode, Cléo de Dancer      
Montesquiou, Robert de Poet          
Morand, Paul Writer  
Noailles, Anna de Writer    
Noailles, Emmanuel de Diplomat  
Pahlavi, Reza Shah  
Paquin, Jeanne Designer  
Pierpont Morgan, John Financier  
Poiré, Emmanuel (Caran d'Ache) Cartoonist  
Polaire Actress      
Porto-Riche, Georges de [fr] Writer  
Pougy, Liane de Dancer  
Puccini, Giacomo Composer  
Rostand, Edmond Dramatist    
Rostand, Maurice Writer  
Rougier, Henri Aviator  
Santos-Dumont, Alberto Aviator      
Sardou, Victorien Dramatist  
Vionnet, Madeleine Designer  
Wall, Berry Socialite  


  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 linksEdit