Georges Goursat was born in Perigueux on 22 November 1863. Around 1890 Georges Goursat began to use the moniker “Sem” when signing his work.
He was invited to Paris in March 1900 by Jean Lorrain, mainly to work in the studio of Cherat. In Paris, Sem lived on the Rue de Vaugirard and he found his artistic inspiration in visiting the racetracks of Paris, where he watched the members of the Jockey Club at play. Here he put together the album The Turf, which was immediately considered a great success. He also became associated with Parisian society, where he was able to observe the privileged, whether at the Restaurant Maxim’s, at the Opera, at Longchamps, or in the Allée des Acacias .
Sem’s success was not only limited to Parisian high society but also to the masses. He worked regularly on many periodicals, both humorous and serious, including Le Figaro. He also made many trips to the coast of Normandy, where he painted the sailing vessels of Deauville and where he put together his albums Paris – Trouville and Tangoville-sur-Mer. He also visited the Cote d’Azur, where he worked on his albums Monte Carlo and Sem á la Mer Bleue.
Sem’s unique talent made his work very identifiable, particularly because of the essential sobriety of his composition, in which his characters usually emerge from a white or plain background rather than being more obvious caricatures. His work is particularly associated with the Belle Epoque and, during this period, he wrote numerous articles chronicling theatre shows, fashion, travel and artistic reviews. He also created a number of very beautiful posters illustrating subjects like the clowns Footit and Chocolat, the tourist towns of Deauville, Cannes and Monte Carlo, and also a number of businesses including Benedictine.
Sem died peacefully on 26 November 1934, in his armchair with a book in his hand. He drew in a personal way, with great success, and was rewarded during his lifetime with both fame and fortune.