Masters of caricature exaggerate or even boldly distort their human subjects’ features in order to reveal essential traits of character and personality. These selected works exemplify varied approaches to this art form through skillful linear technique as well as expressive use of color.

Caricature by a Colorist

Will Cotton depicts the British author H. G. Wells (1866–1946) with the greenish pallor of heartburn that has caused him to dream of a burning earth streaking across the sky. A prolific writer in many genres, Wells is particularly renowned for imaginative works of science fiction such as the War of the Worlds. Cotton’s distinctive use of color as a means of expression and satiric tone contrasts with the predominantly linear technique employed by many caricaturists during the 1920s and 1930s. Between 1931 and 1935 Vanity Fair magazine published many caricatures by Cotton that are similar to this example in format and use of vivid color.

William H. Cotton (1880–1958). Mr. Wells Evolving a Cosmic Thought, ca.1931–1935. Pastel. Bendiner Fund purchase, 2005. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (035.00.00) © Cotton Estates [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-09441]

Bookmark this item: //

Dynamic Defining Lines

Al Hirschfeld captures the unique vitality of Betty Hutton (1921–2007) in his theatrical caricature of her performing at the Palace Theater in a variety show. The drawing displays the hallmarks of Hirschfeld’s style—his fluid line that seems alive in tracing the contours and flowing motion of Hutton’s arms and graceful legs and patterning that sets off her face, figure, and movements. For more than seven decades Hirschfeld created compelling caricatures of the great performers of New York’s theater world that were published primarily in the New York Times. His elegant, linear style in pen and ink is instantly recognizable and has influenced and inspired succeeding generations of artists. The Library named him a “Living Legend” and celebrated his extraordinary career in a Swann Gallery exhibition in 1999–2000.

Al Hirschfeld (1903–2003). Betty Hutton at the Palace, 1952. Published in New York Times, April 16, 1952. Ink brush. Gift of Al and Louise Hirschfeld, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (036.00.00) © Al Hirschfeld. Reproduced by arrangement with Hirschfeld's exclusive representative, the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd., New York. [Digital ID # LC-USZC4-12979]

Bookmark this item: //

Iconic Singer-Songwriter

Illustrator and caricaturist Glynis Sweeny captures Paul Simon (b. 1941) in the exertion of performing. She drew this caricature for the Detroit News close to the time of Simon’s “Born at the Right Time” tour, which he began with his performance at the Palace in Detroit on January 16, 1991. Sweeny worked as an illustrator and page designer for the Detroit News until 1995, when she moved to New York. Drawing mainly in wax-based colored pencil, she has become known for her satirical depictions of political and business figures that appear in leading newspapers and magazines.

Glynis Sweeny (b. 1962). Paul Simon, ca. 1991. Published in Detroit News, ca. 1991. Colored pencil. Swann Memorial Fund purchase, 2008. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (037.00.00) © Glynis Sweeny [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-19310]

Bookmark this item: //

Fairy-Tale Romance

Rainier III, Prince of Monaco (1923–2005) married the Oscar-winning American actress Grace Kelly (1929–1982) in 1956, an event the press dubbed “The Wedding of the Century.” Diana Denny Kalmus (known professionally as “Denny”) portrayed the glamorous couple with emphatic, graceful lines executed in brush and ink in this drawing, one of more than 1,000 that she created between the mid-1940s and 1960s. Affiliated with the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance most of these years, Denny produced caricatures of American generals and political leaders, foreign heads of state, and celebrated stars of film and stage that were published in multiple newspapers, often on the front page.

Diana Denny (b. 1923). Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, ca.1955. Ink over graphite. Gift of the artist, 2008. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (038.00.00) © Diana Denny [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-31374]

Bookmark this item: //

Back to top