Jürg "JÜSP" Spahr
February 1, 1925 - March 14, 2002
Jürg Spahr, or just JÜSP in the international cartoon
community, was born in Catania, Sicily, of Swiss parents. Although the family
returned to Switzerland on the eve of World War II, JÜSP never lost
a certain affinity for Italian life, which may account for the sparkling
ideas and lightness of touch in his linework.
During his school and university years--he studied law--he began to draw
cartoons, which he promptly submitted to the satirical Swiss magazine Nebelspalter.
It proved to be a stroke of luck for JÜSP. The editor recognised his
talent, published his cartoons, and gave him some professional advice. In
the years to come he drew some 150 covers and many black and white cartoons
for the magazine. This was a modest beginning of what gradually turned into
a prolific career. From 1960 till 1985, JÜSP did a weekly cartoon for
the Basler Zeitung (formerly National Zeitung), and from 1962
on he did political cartoons for the same Swiss paper. But he was not only
an ever-curious cartoonist with a highly creative mind poking fun at all
and sundry. He was also a versatile graphic artist who opened an advertising
studio, which brought in the necessary money for his family and, at the
same time, gave him the indispensable freedom for his cartoons. "In
advertising," JÜSP once said, "I did everything, from letterheads
to posters." Except for a brief spell early on with a window-dressing
atelier, he was freelancing from the start.
Rare talents deserve medals and honours. In 1960 JüSP received the
unique New Yorker "Cartoons for Peace Award"; twice he
got the Italian 'Dattero d'Oro' in 1968, a gold medal was bestowed on him
by the Swiss Sports Journalists in 1972, and in 1988 he received the American
"Distinguished Cartoonists Award." During the 13th Dutch Cartoon
Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands, JÜSP was honoured with the coveted
Ton Smits Erepenning, and with a special exhibition of his work at the Stadschouwburg.
In autumn 2000 an exhibition of his political cartoons and caricatures took
place at the Federal Government in Berne. To crown his lifelong interest
in and dedication to cartooning he was appointed curator from 1978 to 1995
of the international Sammlung Karikaturen & Cartoons in Basel, founded
by the late collector Dieter Burckhardt.
Jürg Spahr began his career drawing cartoons at a time when the
word cartoon was hardly known, wanting only to earn some pocket money. The
result was some 10,000 cartoons to his credit.
JÜSP began his productive career in 1946 in Basel, Switzerland,
where he died of heart failure, only a few days after his wife had passed