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 away.

Hans Haëm