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May 17, 2011

Caricatures are here to stay!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Charlie Anson @ 10:48 am

Over the last three hundred or so years, caricatures of famous individuals have performed a sort of cathartic social function from within the visual arts, just as comedians do in the performing arts. Caricatures give people the chance to point and laugh at people in positions of authority, and often in the simplest of compositions, highlight critical truths and imperfections about those subjects.

From the grotesque monsters unleashed by William Hogarth, to master craftsmen of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries such as Gerald Scarfe and Steve Bell, caricatures have been keen, sharp instruments of satire, delving straight into our instinctive reactions and producing more clarity of social and political opinion than the moth ruthlessly pointed pamphlet or article.

Today, in the age of digital media, animation, and 3D film, the impact of hand-made caricatures is no less strong. Through their vivid situational representations, and their often distorted, grotesque exaggerations of physical human traits, caricatures are instantly recognisable, deeply human, and always elicit strong reactions, from heart-felt amusement to utter revulsion, to pity, affection, fear, and even patriotic pride.

The evolution of caricatures has loosely followed that of society, and of aesthetics in the visual arts. While Hogarth’s caricatures were highly detailed, neo-classically precise situational portraits only subtly stretched towards the grotesque, echoing the stylistic choices of contemporaneous master painters, caricatures in the nineteenth century began to adopt the more sparse and selective aspects that so often distinguish them today. This tendency reflected the notion developed in the new journalistic arts that making economies in communication, be it pictorial or written, often paid higher dividends than the publication of more elaborate media.

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