Caricatures and Cartoons

In this blog post,  I examined editorial cartoons, something that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been working on editorial cartoons for many years and have managed to amass a pretty large body of them that are published. Today I’d like to take a look at caricature, an element of cartooning that is similar, but different to the editorial variety.

What Is a Caricature?

Coming from the Italian words carico or caricare (meaning to ‘load up’ or ‘exaggerate,’ caricature is the art of exaggerating features of a subject in order to trigger recognition of the subject and often to parody it. Walking through a city on any given day, you’re likely to find  caricature artists offering to draw up slightly comical works of you for a humble fee. However, the origins of caricature go far back.

A Brief History

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of caricature, just because it’s been going on for so long. Going back to classical art, one can find all sorts of examples of exaggerated features. Take for instance this mosaic depicting the use of a grotesque mask to indicate a character:


Then there’s also the rise of bio-morph and grotesque art in the Middle Ages in the depiction of gargoyles, demons and other bizarre characters. For example:


Doesn’t that just put a smile on your face?

One thing for certain is that during the 16th and 17th century, artist started to utilize caricatures as a way of ridiculing public figures. Take for instance “The Adoration of the Kings” by Pieter Bruegel. This painting depicts the visit of the Three Kings to an infant Jesus, but notice the outrageous costume of the kneeling king, and how a lot of people in the picture seem to be more interested in each other or even the ground than the holy figure often at the center of the image.

bruegel adoration of kings

Caricatures Today

As time moved on, caricature began to merge increasingly with politics and social critque resulting in the editorial cartoons we know today. In fact, it’s  hard to imagine a presidential election without caricature. Heck, with impressions by comedians,from Jordan Peele portraying Barack Obama to Tina Fey riffing on Sarah Palin, you could even say that the art form has left off the page and has entered a whole new era thanks to SNL, Key and Peele and other comedy programs.

Obama vs Romney 2012 prom

Art by Dave Granlund

And of course, you can always support a local artist and get your very own caricature.


To see how I incorporate caricature into my own cartoons, click here


Check out this article for a more in depth look at the history of caricature.