December 20, 2009 / Arts / 17 comments
A caricature 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.
The term is derived from the Italian caricare- to charge or load. An early definition occurs in the English doctor Sir Thomas Browne’s Christian Morals (first pub.1716).
Expose not thy self by four-footed manners unto monstrous draughts, and Caricatura representations.
with the footnote —
When Men’s faces are drawn with resemblance to some other Animals, the Italians call it, to be drawn in Caricatura.
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.