Feb 19, 2013
As a tribute to George Washington's Birthday, the first President of the United States, we put together a quirky little gallery of caricature portraits featuring some of America's famous presidential faces. A caricature is a simple image showing the features of its subject in an exaggerated way. In addition to exaggeration, caricatures differ wildly in style and technique but there are generally two additional elements transcending style and medium that must exist: likeness and statement, meaning the caricature must editorialize in some way.
Some of the earliest caricatures are found in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, who actively sought people with deformities to use as models. The point was to offer an impression of the original which was more striking than a portrait.
The art of caricature experienced its first successes in the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where such portraits could be passed about for mutual enjoyment. While the first book on caricature drawing to be published in England was Mary Darly's A Book of Caricaturas (c. 1762), the first known North American caricatures were drawn in 1759 during the battle for Quebec. These caricatures were the work of Brig.-Gen. George Townshend whose caricatures of British General James Wolfe, depicted as "Deformed and crass and hideous" were drawn to amuse fellow officers. Elsewhere, two great practitioners of the art of caricature in 18th-century Britain were Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and James Gillray (1757–1815). Rowlandson was more of an artist and his work took its inspiration mostly from the public at large. Gillray was more concerned with the vicious visual satirisation of political life. They were, however, great friends and caroused together in the pubs of London.
We hope you get a giggle out of this gallery and for those reading in the US, Happy President's Day!