A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person, animal or object to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.
According to the Indian Cartoonist S. Jithesh, a caricature is the satirical illustration of a person or a thing, but a cartoon is the satirical illustration of an idea.
Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose or be drawn solely for entertainment. Caricatures of politicians are commonly used in editorial cartoons, while caricatures of movie stars are often found in entertainment magazines.
The term is derived from the Italian caricare—to charge or load. An early definition occurs in the English doctor Thomas Browne’s Christian Morals, published posthumously in 1716.
- Expose not thy self by four-footed manners unto monstrous draughts, and Caricatura representations.
with the footnote:
- When Men’s faces are drawn with resemblance to some other Animals, the Italians call it, to be drawn in Caricatura
Thus, the word “caricature” essentially means a “loaded portrait”. According to School of Visual Arts caricature instructor Sam Viviano, the term refers only to depictions of real-life people, and not to cartoon fabrications of fictional characters, which do not possess objective sets of physiognomic features to draw upon for reference, or to anthropomorphic depictions of inanimate objects such as automobiles or coffee mugs.Walt Disney, on the other hand, equated his animation to caricature, saying the hardest thing to do was find the caricature of an animal that worked best as a human-like character.
Ancient Pompeiian graffiti caricature of a politician.
Some of the earliest caricatures are found in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, who actively sought people with deformities to use as models. The point was to offer an impression of the original which was more striking than a portrait.
Caricature experienced its first successes in the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where such portraits could be passed about for mutual enjoyment.
James Gillray’s The Plumb-pudding in danger(1805), which caricatured Pitt and Napoleon, was voted the most famous of all UK political cartoons.
While the first book on caricature drawing to be published in England wasMary Darly’s A Book of Caricaturas (c. 1762), the first known North American caricatures were drawn in 1759 during the battle for Quebec. These caricatures were the work of Brig.-Gen. George Townshend whose caricatures of British General James Wolfe, depicted as “Deformed and crass and hideous” (Snell), were drawn to amuse fellow officers. Elsewhere, two great practitioners of the art of caricature in 18th-century Britain were Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and James Gillray (1757–1815). Rowlandson was more of an artist and his work took its inspiration mostly from the public at large. Gillray was more concerned with the vicious visual satirisation of political life. They were, however, great friends and caroused together in the pubs of London. See the Tate Gallery’s exhibit James Gillray: The Art of Caricature
In a lecture titled The History and Art of Caricature (September 2007, Queen Mary 2 Lecture theatre), the British caricaturist Ted Harrison said that the caricaturist can choose to either mock or wound the subject with an effective caricature. Drawing caricatures can simply be a form of entertainment and amusement – in which case gentle mockery is in order – or the art can be employed to make a serious social or political point. A caricaturist draws on (1) the natural characteristics of the subject (the big ears, long nose, etc.); (2) the acquired characteristics (stoop, scars, facial lines etc.); and (3) the vanities (choice of hair style, spectacles, clothes, expressions and mannerisms).
- See list of caricaturists.
Une discussion littéraire à la deuxième Galerieby Honoré Daumier
Lithograph published in Le Charivarinewspaper, February 27, 1864
A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to “Blow Over”—”Let Us Prey.” byThomas Nast
Wood engraving published in Harper’s Weekly newspaper, September 23, 1871
George Cruikshank (1792–1878, British) created political prints that attacked the royal family and leading politicians (in 1820 he received a royal bribe of £100 for a pledge “not to caricature His Majesty (George III of the United Kingdom) in any immoral situation.” He went on to create social caricatures of British life for popular publications such asThe Comic Almanack (1835–1853) and Omnibus (1842). Cruikshanks’New Union Club of 1819 is notable in the context of slavery. He also earned fame as a book illustrator for Charles Dickens and many other authors.
Honoré Daumier (1808–1879, French) is considered by some to be the father of caricature. During his life, he created over 4,000 lithographs, most of them caricatures on political, social and everyday themes. They were published in the daily French newspapers (Le Charivari, La Caricature etc.)
Thomas Nast (1840–1902, American) was a famous caricaturist and editorial cartoonist in the 19th century and is considered by some as written in 1908 by the New York Times to be the father of American political cartooning. He is often credited with creating the definitive caricatures of the Democratic Donkey, the Republican Elephant and Santa Claus.
Sir Max Beerbohm (1872–1956, British), created and published caricatures of the famous men of his own time and earlier. His style of single-figure caricatures in formalized groupings was established by 1896 and flourished until about 1930. His published works include Caricatures of Twenty-five Gentlemen (1896), The Poets’ Corner (1904) and Rossetti and His Circle (1922). He published widely in fashionable magazines of the time, and his works were exhibited regularly in London at the Carfax Gallery (1901–18) and Leicester Galleries (1911–57).
Alex Gard (1900–1948, Russian) created more than 700 caricatures of show business celebrities and other notables for the walls of Sardi’s Restaurant in the theater district of New York City: the first artist to do so. Today the images are part of the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Al Hirschfeld (1903–2003, American) was best known for his simple black and white renditions of celebrities and Broadway stars which used flowing contour lines over heavy rendering. He was also known for depicting a variety of other famous people, from politicians, musicians, singers and even television stars like the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was even commissioned by the United States Postal Service to provide art for U.S. stamps. Permanent collections of Hirschfeld’s work appear at theMetropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and he boasts a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Mort Drucker (1929, American) joined Mad in 1957 and became well known for his parodies of movie satires. He combined a comic strip style with caricature likenesses of film actors for Md, and he also contributed covers toTime. He has been recognized for his work with the National Cartoonists Society Special Features Award for 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988, and their Reuben Award for 1987.
Gogu Neagoe (1976, Romanian) holds a Guinness World Record for the doing 131 caricatures through the phone, without ever seeing the subject.
Vitaliy Peskov (1944–2002, Russian Виталий Песков) was a famous Russian caricaturist.
Robert Risko (1946, American) is known for his retro airbrush style. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone,Playboy, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Interview.
David Levine (1926–2009, American) is noted for his caricatures in The New York Review of Books and Playboymagazine. His first cartoons appeared in 1963. Since then he has drawn hundreds of pen-and-ink caricatures of famous writers and politicians for the newspaper.
Sam Viviano (1953, American) has done much work for corporations and in advertising, having contributed toRolling Stone, Family Weekly, Reader’s Digest, Consumer Reports, and Mad, of which he is currently the art director. Viviano’s caricatures are known for their wide jaws, which Viviano has explained is a result of his incorporation of side views as well as front views into his distortions of the human face. He has also developed a reputation for his ability to do crowd scenes. Explaining his twice-yearly covers for Institutional Investor magazine, Viviano has said that his upper limit is sixty caricatures in nine days.
Sebastian Krüger (1963, German) is known for his grotesque, yet hyper-realistic distortions of the facial features of celebrities, which he renders primarily in acrylic paint, and for which he has won praise from The Times. He is well known for his lifelike depictions of The Rolling Stones, in particular, Keith Richards. Krüger has published three collections of his works, and has a yearly art calendar from Morpheus International. Krüger’s art can be seen frequently in Playboy magazine and has also been featured in the likes of Stern, L’Espresso, Penthouse, andDer Spiegel and USA Today. He has recently been working on select motion picture projects.
Hermann Mejia (Venezuelan) is known for his frequent work for MAD Magazine. Mejia uses multiple techniques in his work, sometimes rendering his illustrations in black and white ink and copious amounts of cross-hatching, sometimes using watercolor, and sometimes combinations of both.
S. Jithesh (Indian) is best known for his Super-speedy style of Celebrity Caricaturing Stage Shows. He belongs to the genre of the odd and rare species of Performing Caricaturists. He is the first one who courageously and successfully experimented with and explored the performance dimensions of the ‘Art of Caricaturing’ as a perfect ‘Stage Art’ with consistency. He evolved and gave a fine finish to the Infotainment ’Caricature Stage Show’ or ‘Caricature Concert’ through more than two thousand stages. His ‘Caricature Stage Show’ is a blend of poetry,anecdotes and socio-political satire with super speedy drawing which explores the performing level possibilities of the ‘Art of Caricaturing’. Sketching of more than thousand celebrity caricatures relentlessly with a lightning pace and satirical commentary is the major attraction of his ‘Caricature Stage Shows’. He is widely acclaimed as the ‘World’s Fastest Cartoonist’ Since his amazing ability to sketch 50 celebrity caricatures within 5 minutes.
There have been efforts to produce caricatures automatically or semi-automatically using computer graphics techniques. For example, a system proposed by Akleman et al. provides warping tools specifically designed toward rapidly producing caricatures. There are very few software programs designed specifically for automatically creating caricatures.
Computer graphic system requires quite different skill sets to design a caricature as compared to the caricatures created on paper. Thus using a computer in the digital production of caricatures requires advanced knowledge of the program’s functionality. Rather than being a simpler method of caricature creation, it can be a more complex method of creating images that feature finer coloring textures than can be created using more traditional methods.
A milestone in formally defining caricature was Susan Brennan’s master’s thesis in 1982. In her system, caricature was formalized as the process of exaggerating differences from an average face. For example, if Prince Charles has more prominent ears than the average person, in his caricature the ears will be much larger than normal. Brennan’s system implemented this idea in a partially automated fashion as follows: the operator was required to input a frontal drawing of the desired person having a standardized topology (the number and ordering of lines for every face). She obtained a corresponding drawing of an average male face. Then, the particular face was caricatured simply by subtracting from the particular face the corresponding point on the mean face (the origin being placed in the middle of the face), scaling this difference by a factor larger than one, and adding the scaled difference back onto the mean face.
Though Brennan’s formalization was introduced in the 1980s, it remains relevant in recent work. Mo et al. refined the idea by noting that the population variance of the feature should be taken into account. For example, the distance between the eyes varies less than other features such as the size of the nose. Thus even a small variation in the eye spacing is unusual and should be exaggerated, whereas a correspondingly small change in the nose size relative to the mean would not be unusual enough to be worthy of exaggeration.
On the other hand, Liang et al. argue that caricature varies depending on the artist and cannot be captured in a single definition. Their system uses machine learning techniques to automatically learn and mimic the style of a particular caricature artist, given training data in the form of a number of face photographs and the corresponding caricatures by that artist. The results produced by computer graphic systems are arguably not yet of the same quality as those produced by human artists. For example, most systems are restricted to exactly frontal poses, whereas many or even most manually produced caricatures (and face portraits in general) choose an off-center “three-quarters” view. Brennan’s caricature drawings were frontal-pose line drawings. More recent systems can produce caricatures in a variety of styles, including direct geometric distortion of photographs.
The science of caricature
Leopold et al. found that individual face-recognizing neurons in the inferotemporal cortex respond more strongly to caricatured faces than to the veridical representations of the same face, and suggest that the visual brain may code faces relative to a prototypical face, consistent with Brennan’s formalization.
Ramachandran and Hirstein suggested that caricature is related to peak shift. In the peak shift effect, animals sometimes respond more strongly to exaggerated versions of the training stimuli. For example, if a rat is trained to respond to a rectangle of a particular aspect ratio, and to avoid a square, when later presented with several rectangles it will prefer the one with the most elongated aspect ratio (this being the one that is most different from the square) rather than the original rectangle used in training. Ramachandran and Hirstein speculated that cells in a monkey brain that respond to particular faces would respond more strongly to caricatured versions of the face. This effect has been confirmed in FMRI experiments by Tsao.
Modern use of caricature
A modern, street-style caricature at a wedding, with the subject holding the picture for comparison
Beside the political and public-figure satire, most contemporary caricatures are used as gifts or souvenirs, often drawn by street vendors. For a small fee, a caricature can be drawn specifically (and quickly) for a patron. These are popular at street fairs, carnivals, and even weddings, often with humorous results.
Caricature artists are also popular attractions at many places frequented by tourists, especially oceanfront boardwalks, where vacationers can have a humorous caricature sketched in a few minutes for a small fee. Caricature artists sometimes hire for parties, where they will draw caricatures of the guests for their entertainment.
Museums of caricature
There are numerous museums dedicated to caricature throughout the world, including the Museo de la Caricatura of Mexico City, the Muzeum Karykatury in Warsaw, the caricatura museum frankfurt in Frankfurt, the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover and the Cartoonmuseum in Basel. The first museum of caricature in the Arab world was opened in March, 2009, at Fayoum, Egypt.
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