caricature, a satirical drawing, plastic representation, or description which, through exaggeration of natural features, makes its subject appear ridiculous. Although 16th-century Northern painters, such as Holbein, Bruegel, and Bosch, employed certain elements of caricature, no comic tradition was established until the 17th cent. with the work of the Carracci. In the 18th cent. caricature flourished in England in the works of Hogarth, Rowlandson, and Gillray. In Spain, Francisco Goya's Los caprichos and Disasters of War illustrate the less attractive sides of human nature. The genre expanded to include political and social as well as personal satire, developing into the art of the cartoon. Periodicals of caricature, such as the French Charivari (1832), followed by Punch in England, Simplicissimus in Germany, and Puck, Life, and Judge in the United States, were quite popular in the 19th cent. They featured work by Daumier, George Cruikshank, John Tenniel, Art Young, E. W. Kemble, and Daniel Fitzpatrick. Modern caricaturists of note include David Low, Ronald Searle, Max Beerbohm, Al Hirschfeld, David Levine, and H. L. Block. Sculpture generally lends itself less well to caricature, but an exception exists in the series of heads by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt (1736–83) which represent exaggerated states of emotion and character. In literature, caricature has been a popular form since the ancient Greeks. Through verbal exaggeration and distortion the writer achieves an immediate, comic, often satiric effect. No one has made wider use of the literary caricature than Dickens.
See L. Lambourne, Caricature (1984); R. G. Goldstein, Censorship of Caricature in Nineteenth-Century France (1989); C. C. McPhee and N. M. Orenstein, Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine (2011).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.