The French illustrator André-François Barbe, known to his many admirers simply as Barbe, grew up in Nîmes in southern France. His first choice of career was as a fighter pilot, and he trained in aeronautics for more than a year before realising that his path was not to be a military one. He had always loved drawing, and after moving to Paris in 1960 he quickly became known as an illustrator, publishing his trademark simple but telling cartoons in the pages of Pilote and Hara-Kiri. Over the next twenty years his work appeared regularly in Charlie Mensuel, Charlie Hebdo, and L’Echo des Savanes. His drawings, almost always in black and white and rarely accompanied by text, showed a remarkable skill with precise, delicate and meticulous line artwork. The subject matter is usually a commentary on human social and sexual behaviour, displaying humour and visual wit. It is also very much of its time, veering towards a rather conventional and stereotyped view of intimate relationships.

Part of a typical Barbe cartoon from 1978

A member of the Humoristes Associés collective, Barbe participated in its albums published during the 1980s, including Les sept péchés capitaux (The Seven Deadly Sins), La table, La mer, and Le vin. His long-running Cinéma series, first published in Charlie Mensuel and collected by Glénat as Cinéma 1 in 1979 and Cinéma 2 in 1982, consists of filmstrip-like stories which develop frame by frame, using the vertical cartoon format in new and highly original ways.

During the 1980s and 90s Barbe’s work appeared in a host of titles from L’Expansion to VSD, including Le Magazine Littéraire, La Recherche, Les Echos and L’Express. His wordless stories appealed to an international audience too – they appeared in Esquire in the USA, Punch in Great Britain, and Pardon, Die Welt and Die Zeit in Germany.

Illustration for Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard), 2000

As well as comic strips, he illustrated classical texts such as Don Juan, Le cantique des cantiques, and François Cavanna’s book, Je t’aime. His last exhibition took place in 2012 in Paris at the An-Girard gallery.

Example illustration