Caricatures have probably influenced your opinions and viewpoints in ways you never even realized. If you have ever looked at an editorial caricature in a Sunday paper, and agreed with it, objected to it, or simply found it funny, then you have been influenced by this art form. Caricatures have certainly evolved from the early days when they first became popular, but they still serve the same worthy cause of eliciting a response and drawing attention.
The origin of the word “caricature” is debatable. Some linguists say that it is a variant of the Italian term “caricare” that when translated literally means “to load.” The word “caricature” from this standpoint alludes to artists’ goal to “load” their work with as much meaning as possible. Some linguists, on the other hand, argue that the word really stemmed from the Italian root “caricatura,” which means “human forms drawn to resemble to animals.” This inherent satirical innuendo can make caricatures either flattering or insulting, but no matter what the effect, it is always humorous.
Caricatures are said to have been started by Annibale Carracci of Bologna, who introduced the idea of “una bella, perfetta deformità,” which theorizes that art can be used to represent the ultimate antitheses of beauty, and that the end-product is far more arresting than a regular portrait. Some experts argue that the earliest indications of caricatures appeared in the work of Leonardo da Vinci, who is very popular for making people with deformities the inspiration and model for his masterpieces. No matter what its origins, caricatures certainly reached its peak within the aristocratic clans of Europe who created them for their amusement.
Modern caricatures are not always human form – they can feature inanimate objects. But the most popular caricatures are portraits of famous politicians and celebrities. Caricatures have been a part of culture in many countries throughout the decades and have helped build consciousness on issues, express social opinions and spawned revolutions. It is an art form that is still very much alive and flourishing, especially because of new digital technologies.