Caricatures

Gordon Brown

Caricature of Gordon Brown

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Caricatures can refer to a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing 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. 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.

 

Thus, the word "caricature" essentially means a "loaded portrait". According to caricature teacher 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. Legendary animator 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.

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. Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), one of the great early practitioners, was favored by the members of the papal court for his ability to depict the essence of a person in 'three or four strokes. In fact, the word "caricature" comes from the Italian caricare, "to load", thus the caricaturist's aim is to invest his image with as much meaning as possible.

Caricature, therefore, experienced its first successes in the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where the such portraits could be passed about for mutual enjoyment.

 

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David Banks