What Is A Caricature


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Caricature by Keith Van Douglas

A caricature is an artistic rendering of a real person or animal which distorts or exaggerates certain features, but still maintains a likeness: in other words an exaggerated piece of portrait or figurative art.

Caricatures first became a very popular genre of fine art in the 16th and 17th century and were created by satirists to ridicule public figures and politicians.  A caricature with a moral message is considered a satire caricature.  Caricatures continue to remain quite popular today, and are utilized in magazines, newspapers, and websites to poke fun at film stars, politicians and celebrities. The only thing that has changed is the artist tools. Initially caricaturists used charcoal drawings, pencil or pen and ink drawings.   However today’s caricature artists have access to graphic design programs such as Photoshop,  Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter.

Propaganda Popcorn Political Cartoon by Keith Van Douglas

Caricaturists have wielded significant persuasive power with their pen, far more so than a writer ever could.  In fact, inthe early days of the genre dating back hundreds of years, caricaturists transmitted messages without the need for the written word.  This was particularly important at a time in world history when the

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Rethuglicans Political Cartoon by Keith Van Douglas

majority of the population could not read or write!  A very famous example of this type of graphic art is the satirical etchings of Napoleon Bonaparte by the British artist James Gillray (1756-1815). He depicted the French Emperor as very short and slightly ridiculous, in an over sized hat.

Today, as the result of English caricaturist, James Gillray, the world still thinks of Napoleon Bonaparte as being shorter than he really was. Caricatures are considered to be one of the most populist forms of art, but as figurative drawings caricatures are most often just as skillful and more influential than most portrait or figurative paintings.

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