“ …the essence of caricature is exaggeration—not distortion... caricaturists exaggerate for the sake of truth, as opposed to distorting in order to deny that truth.”
How to Draw Caricatures, by Lenn Redman
Part 1 - the Carracci brothers
Recently, I felt the need to read up a bit on the history of caricature. I am studying its origins and the works of some great artists who gave this art form a dignity of its own. I will share with you what I find out in a series of posts about this subject.
Let’s start from the beginning. Here’s the definition of caricature found in the English Oxford Dictionary: “A picture, description, or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect”. Origin: “mid 18th century: from French, from Italian caricatura, from caricare 'load, exaggerate', from Latin carricare.”
It has rather surprised me to find out that portrait caricature was not known as a form of art in classical times or in the Middle Ages. Artists back then were very familiar with comic art in general, comic illustrations, pictorial satires and the art of grotesque but portrait-caricature wasn’t intended in its full meaning “… the conscious distortion of the features of a person with the aim of ridicule.” E. H. Gombrich, (with Ernst Kris) The Principles of Caricature, British Journal of Medical Psychology, Vol. 17, 1938, pp.319-42
Even Leonardo da Vinci sketches of grotesque human faces that are often referred to as early forms of caricatures are actually more of an in depth study of the human physiognomy and the grotesque of it than the expressions of an art form.