The best practitioners of the craft of caricature create powerful images that reach into their subjects to reveal defining traits with incisive insight. Such past masters as Miguel Covarrubias and Al Hirschfeld manipulate form with the stroke of a brush or the use of a pen to capture personalities on paper, as if by magic. Caricaturist David Levine has drawn generations of prominent people, from poets to politicians, using his forceful combination of expressive form and line.
David Levine (b. 1926) envisions Stokely Carmichael as the handsome, charismatic young leader of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) who galvanized the civil rights movement by proclaiming the importance of “Black Power.” Levine incorporates into his drawing small figures of Ku Klux Klansmen with a Confederate flag and burning cross, a sheriff, fierce dog, and awestruck young women—elements that capture the turbulent era in which Carmichael and fellow black leaders sought to advance civil rights. Internationally acclaimed for his sharply conceived, finely drawn caricatures, Levine is one of the most influential caricaturists of the late twentieth century.
David Levine. Stokely Carmichael, 1967. Published in Esquire, September 1967, with the title Heinous Loiterer. Ink over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-07235 (86). ©David Levine, used with permission
William Randolph Hearst
Homer Davenport (1867- 1912), popular daily editorial cartoonist, created this puckish caricature of his patron William Randolph Hearst (1863 -1951) in 1896, the year Hearst brought him to New York and made him the highest-paid editorial cartoonist in the country. His cartoons for the New York Evening Journal had such an effect on public opinion that the New York State legislature considered enacting an anti-cartoon bill in 1897. William Randolph Hearst retained impressive artists for his publishing empire, understanding the importance of images in providing news and entertainment.
The Rt. Hon. Henry Austin Bruce
Henry Austin Bruce, later Lord Aberdare, became Home Secretary in William Gladstone's cabinet in 1869. Vanity Fair published this image that year, with the comment “He has gained credit by converting himself to the Ballot: he would gain greater credit by converting himself to an ex-secretary of State for the Home Department.” Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), a popular and prosperous portrait artist who signed his drawings “Ape,” left his native Italy and joined the staff of London's Vanity Fair, where he worked intermittently, from 1869 until his death.
Saul Steinberg (1914 - 1999) created whimsical, deceptively simple line drawings that often resembled doodles. In this apparent self portrait, a man holds a bottle of ink in his right hand as his left hand draws his head, which appears as a series of elegant, calligraphic, spiraling lines emblematic of artistic creativity. The theme of a draftsman in the act of delineating himself is central to Steinberg's artistic output. For more than fifty years, his work appeared in the New Yorker, which published more than 1,200 of his drawings and ninety cover designs.
Impossible Interviews—No. 15
Already an accomplished caricaturist, Miguel Covarrubias (1904 -1957) took New York by storm when he arrived from his native Mexico in 1923. By 1925, he had become one of Vanity Fair's principal contributors, as renowned as the men and women he drew. In the series Impossible Interviews, Covarrubias brilliantly paired prominent politicians, artists, writers, and actors who would never be seen together in real life. This cartoon pairs Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, designer of Radio City Music Hall and the Roxy Theater, with impresario conductor Arturo Toscanini, musical director of the New York Philharmonic.
Miguel Covarrubias. Impossible Interviews—No. 15. S.L. Rothafel versus Arturo Toscanini, 1933. Published in Vanity Fair, February 1933. Gouache. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-03351 (90). Miguel Covarrubias/Vanity Fair © Condé Nast Publications
George H. W. Bush Gesturing with Six Hands
Richard Thompson responds to reports that George Herbert Walker Bush, the forty-first president of the United States, was hyperactive by capturing Bush in mid-speech, with a blurry array of gesticulating hands. Bush's use of hand gestures were imitated and made popular by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live. Richard Thompson, a freelance illustrator, contributes illustrations to many periodicals and the Washington Post regularly features his work.
Richard Thompson. George H. W. Bush Gesturing with Six Hands, between 1985 and 1990. Published in U.S. News & World Report. Oil paint over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-09440 (91). ©Richard Thompson, used with permission
Jumbo Opens Oct. 26th Hippodrome—Robyn (the clown), Jumbo, Jimmy Durante, Alan K. Foster Girls, the Lomas Troupe ... Paul Whiteman
Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) captured the spectacle of Jumbo, a musical theatrical circus, that transformed the Hippodrome in New York in 1935. The master of the art of the line, Hirschfeld draws attention up and down the image. Jumbo opened to enthusiastic reviews and ran for 233 performances. It contained more than 1,000 animals and a dozen circus acts, as well as songs and a story line. Al Hirschfeld, honored as a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000, drew theatrical reviews for more than seventy-five years for the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times.
Al Hirschfeld. Jumbo Opens Oct. 26th Hippodrome— Robyn (the clown), Jumbo, Jimmy Durante, Alan K. Foster Girls, the Lomas Troupe ... Paul Whiteman, 1935. Published in the New York Times, October 20, 1935. Ink over graphite drawing with paste-on. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-08332 (92). © Al Hirschfeld. Reproduced by arrangement with Hirschfeld's exclusive representative, the Margo Feiden Galleries, Ltd., New York
Kevin Kallaugher (b. 1955), a.k.a. KAL, deploys well-honed skills in caricature in his drawing of African American leader Jesse Jackson painting a rainbow with a bucket of black paint. Frustration at being seen as only a black candidate led Jackson in 1986 to establish his Rainbow Coalition, which he deemed a progressive force in the Democratic Party. This cartoon suggests that Jackson's program given his concentration and emphatic action, will emphasize black issues. Award-winning cartoonist KAL drew many years for the Baltimore Sun and continues creating cartoons for The Economist magazine.
Kevin Kallaugher. Jesse Jackson, facing left, painting a rainbow with a bucket of black paint, 1986. Published in The Economist, 1986. Ink, ink brush and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-08332 (98). ©Kevin Kallaugher, used with permission
Characters & Caricaturas
English painter and satirist William Hogarth (1697-1764) drew more than one hundred faces for this famous etching, when he created a subscription ticket for his print series Marriage à la Mode, one of his modern moral subjects. Hogarth distinguished between characters (faces drawn from nature) and “caricaturas” (faces with exaggerated and grotesque features), differentiating the two in the lower part of the print by juxtaposing copies of faces drawn by Raphael with copies of distorted faces by Annibale Carracci and Leonardo da Vinci. Called “the father of English caricature,” Hogarth preferred recognition as a student of human character.