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Sempé Fi: Listen to Me

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3-15-10 Jean-Jacques Sempe In the Spotlight.JPG

Pollux writes:

It is the night of the big concert. A spotlight illuminates a world-famous violinist. The stage is set; the venue is expensive and elaborate.

The violinist, however, has stepped aside. She gestures towards a little old lady at the piano. It is the pianist’s moment now. The elderly pianist modestly accepts the violinist’s gesture.

Some of the spotlight attaches itself to the pianist’s head like a halo. This is the charming scene that Jean-Jacques Sempé has created for the cover of the March 15, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, called “In the Spotlight.”

As always, Sempé’s human figures are miniscule but not insignificant. Sempé’s figures are the emotional and humorous focus of his art, and the inky details are used to create his cartoon figures.

Sempé’s backgrounds, meanwhile, are less sharply defined and created with watercolors.

It is the people who are important here, and for “In the Spotlight,” Sempé has created a charming and touching scene. The younger woman has put all ego and ambition aside to give the older woman an opportunity perhaps never given to her: the opportunity to perform before an audience.

The older woman, perhaps a piano teacher or an amateur piano player, has the chance now to share her musical gifts with the world. The violinist is all too happy to give her that chance.

In a world of selfishness and naked ambition, Sempé creates a scene that is not optimistic but not overly idealistic. May all who deserve a moment in the spotlight get that chance one day.


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