Caricatures in the Golden Age of Illustration

Gen. Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur, 1903

Caricatures are humorous portraits of people with exaggerated features intended to mock or tease.

During the golden Age of Illustration (1880-1920), cartoonists and illustrators made use of the technique in political and social comments.

In a broad sense, all cartoons are caricatures, people, animals, or objects with exaggerated features intended to be funny.

Drawings of people with distorted physical features created for entertainment or insult probably began as graffiti in ancient civilizations. They were popular in ancient Greece and Rome as a way of of expressing popular sentiment.

Renaissance artists including Leonardo da Vinci created exaggerated drawings and paintings of notable people.

With modern printing came wide circulation of satirical sketches and comical portraits in magazines, books, and newspapers. Political cartoons often used satire in portraying officials and celebrities. A common technique was giving humans certain animal features or behavior.

Below are a few examples from the Golden Age of Illustration.

Caricature of Falstaff from Shakespeare's Henry IV

Right: Falstaff, from Shakespeare's Henry VI, by J. C. Holliday, 1908.

Below: One artist (Whistler) and five literary figures by Joseph Simpson, 1907.

Caricatures of James McNeil Whistler and Maxim Gorky

Caricatures of Rudyard Kipling and Leo Tolstoy

Caricatures of Thomas Hardy and George Bernard Shaw

Shakespeare's Malvolio from Twelfth Night, 1906 Newton Booth Tarkington by George Brehm, 1903

Above left: E. H. Sothern as Malvolio, from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, by Warren Rockwell, 1906.

Above right: Author Newton Booth Tarkington, by George Brehm, 1903.

Two caricatures by Gluyas Wiliams, 1918. Above is writer John Ruskin; below, designer William Morris lounging in his Morris Chair.

Two caricatures, 1902; on the left is actress Maude Adams watching Sarah Bernhardt playing "L'Aiglon," and on the right, actress Sarah Bernhardt watching Maude Adams playing "L'Aiglon."

Henri Matisse by M. De Zayas, 1914 John Drew, by Marius De Zayas, 1913

Above left: Henri Matisse, by Marius De Zayas, 1914.

Above right: Actor John Drew, by Marius De Zayas, 1913.

French author Alexandre Dumas, 1902.

"The Bloomer Girl," by Frank A. Nankivell, 1895.

caricature of Joseph Joffre, by Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1915 caricature of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm, by Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1915

Above left: French General Joseph Joffre, by Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1915.

Above right: Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm, by Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1915.

Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and benefactor of American libraries, by C. de Fornaro, 1903.

Playright Henri Bernstein sketched "on the spot" in Paris by Marius De Zayas, 1914.

Above: Playright Clyde Fitch reading his play to Miss Elliott,
by Scotson Clark, 1903.

See more examples of cartoons on these pages: Comic Art: sight gags, puns, and comic strips.

Editorial Cartoons: political and social commentary.

Story Illustration: cartoon characters and places.

And be sure to check the Image Galleries for more examples of caricatures.

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