Caricatures: A Historical Encounter

Author: Wain Roy

Humorous or demeaning, caricatures have always captured the attention of people from all walks of life. Caricatures, in their very essence, have a human appeal, which tend to exaggerate or distort a personality. These interesting portraits can be utilized either for fun or for political reasons. The term ‘caricature’ has its roots in the Italian language (‘caricare’), meaning “to charge” or “load”. The English doctor, Sir Thomas Browne, also provides an early definition of this word in his book, Christian Morals (first pub.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

Hence, “caricature” can ideally be called a “loaded portrait”. A number of renowned artists believe that a caricature should be a depiction of real-life people only. On the other hand, Walt Disney extended the bounds of this art by creating caricatures of animals that worked as human-like characters.

The art of caricature drawing has evolved over the ages. From the hands of Leonardo da Vinci, this art has now reached new heights in the hands of modern artists. As an instance of Impressionism, Leonardo da Vinci brushed excellence on canvas by using deformities of people as his models. Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), one of the earliest known practitioners of the art, was hugely popular for his skill in portraying human essence in barely three to four brush strokes.

Caricature, thus, saw its childhood days in the lap of French and Italian aristocratic families. In the 18th century, this art gradually spread to Britain, thanks to the contribution of Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and James Gillray(1757-1815). Caricatures of Rowlandson chiefly drew inspiration from public figures. Gillray, in contrast, laid more stress in satirizing political life through visual representations.

The contributions of George Cruishank, Honore Daumiere, and Thomas Nast in the 19th century took caricature art to an altogether different level. They were chiefly renowned for depicting social and political caricatures. The 20th century saw further rise in the number of social and political caricatures. Besides, caricature portrayals are also being used in the corporate and advertising fields. Mort Drucker, Robert Risko, David Levine, Sam Viviano, and Sebastian Kruger are some of the notable names today.

The art of caricature has thus traveled a long way to be recognized a completely unique art form. Humorous yet meaningful, caricatures will remain as long as the human society exists.

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About the Author:
Wain Roy is an internet marketing professional expert in various industries like real estate, web design, finance, medical tourism and caricatures


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