A Brief History of Caricature

By The Caricaturist | Caricature Facts

A Brief History of Caricature

The origins of the word caricature come from the Italian word caricare, which means to exaggerate. Italian artist brothers Annibale and Agostino Carracci used the word on several portraits that they sketched in the 1590s. They said that the caricature portraits were intended for humorous purposes, mocking the artistic concepts they had imparted to their students at the Bologna Academy.

A caricature is an illustration in which the subject or subjects’ most distinguishable features are exaggerated but not to the point that it will make them unrecognizable. While the word originated in 16th century Italy, the art form itself has an even longer history.

The most primitive evidence of the style dates back to ancient times. There were crudely-drawn pictures of people found on the quarries of Pompeii, a city in the Roman Empire, which resemble early forms of the style.

It is also said that the artists during the latter Middle Ages who drew gargoyles along manuscripts were some of the earliest caricaturists as well.

The painter Hieronymus Bosch was inspired by the illustrations and employed the metaphors in most of his works. Following Bosch on the caricaturist block is Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo who made a sequence of burlesque sketches of kings and emperors. An Italian sculptor by the name of Bernini made humorous portraits to poke fun not only of himself, but also his friends.

The very first artist who made a living out of caricatures was Pier Leone Ghezzi, who was also a Rococo painter. He made a good amount of money out of creating funny illustrations of foreign visitors who were touring Italy.

The style had spread to England by the 18th century. When mass printing took off, it paved the way for the development of newspapers and the art form adopted a different approach. It was the rise of the political cartoon that saw the caricature turned into a means of jeering and lampooning, intended for the leaders of that time.

In the US following the World War I years, this particular art form flourished. The period immediately after WWI was its Golden Age. The political cartoon lingered on because plenty of individuals enjoyed it, but it also showed a fun, colorful and gracious side.

Erring politicians were not the only draw for caricaturists and the dailies that employed them, but cartoon portraits of celebrities became popular with the people as well. In fact, those caricature portraits of celebrities became more in-demand than genuine photos.

These days caricatures are still prevalent in both political cartoons and celebrity periodicals. It has also become a fruitful means of employment for many artists working on the streets. These artists also draw caricatures of passerby for a small fee.

Some work for events like parties and participate in street fairs to provide drawings onsite. The drawings are meant as souvenirs from these events. The artists who usually do this say that participating in those occasions is a great way to expand their craft and study a variety of facial features and expressions.

If you are interested in making a living out of being a caricaturist, you must first have the ability to draw people with an accurate likeness. A fast hand is also needed, especially for those who want to work as a street artist or get a side-line job as a caricaturist for special events.

You should gain first-hand knowledge about drawing in order to get a subject’s facial features accurately.

Drawing can be learned. In fact, there are schools that specialize in art-related courses. There are also tutorials where you can get information about techniques and styles.

In order to be a caricaturist you need to have skills in capturing the likeness of people so you first have to study drawing faces and proper anatomy. Once you got the methods down pat, you can then study exaggerating a person’s most significant, recognizable features and then apply them on your illustrations.

A site like “Learn to Draw Caricatures” will help you learn the techniques you need. The site will lead you through step by step to help you perfect your caricature skills.

It will also spill trade secrets needed to help you gain ground on being a caricature artist. If you are planning on having it as a career, you should get familiar with not only the techniques required in honing your skills, but the goings-on in the industry as well.

It is a viable career if you have gained knowledge of the craft, have perfected it and know how to handle the requirements of the job.

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