Art: Penn

2 minute read

In French politics, a kind of national sport distinguished for its rabidity and subtlety, newspaper cartoonists carry weight. Two, at least, possess gifts equal to their importance: H. P. Gassier, contributor to the brilliant Leftist weekly Le Canard Enchaine, and J. Sennep, of such sheets as Paris-Soir (nicknamed, as the organ of the French sugar trust, Paris-Sucre).

The howling ribaldry of Sennep’s attacks on French Left and Centre politicians has made thousands of Frenchmen think of him as an extreme Rightist. In the past few weeks Cartoonist Sennep has surprised them with an anti-Fascist campaign in the daily Epoque. Last week he avowed: “It’s true I’ve taken more digs at Left politicians but that’s because they are so much funnier to draw.” Patent-leather smooth, dark, fat, affable J. Sennep’s real name is Jean-Jacques Charles Pennes. One brother, General Roger Pennes, is a bigwig in the Air Ministry. After serving through the War in the infantry, Jean Pennes went to work for the Royalist Action Francaise, was first assigned to cover Communist meetings at Garches, ten and a half miles outside of Paris. His resentment at this chore he worked off in cartoons, soon changed his typewriter for a pen and his name around backwards.

Since then the Sennep drawings, which serious artists frankly admire for their mordant economy and caricaturing impact, have made him second only to Britain’s great David Low (TIME. July n ) in European popularity. He was once honored with formal suppression by the French police, who seized a special all-Sennep number of Le Rire in which it had amused the cartoonist to portray the various members of the Chamber of Deputies as the aged, bearded and hairy houris of a gigantic brothel.

Ordinarily, Sennep’s wit has saved his fantastic obscenities from suppression and himself from duels and beatings-up. This year he and Gassier had the cartoonist’s equivalent of a retrospective show in the form of a book, Histoire de France 1918-1938, reviving their more famous drawings of the past 20 years, including Sennep’s recent (1936) Embarcation for Spain (see cut).

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