Art Term

Caricature

A caricature is a painting, or more usually drawing, of a person or thing in which the features and form have been distorted and exaggerated in order to mock or satirise the subject

William Hogarth, ‘O the Roast Beef of Old England (‘The Gate of Calais’)’ 1748
William Hogarth
O the Roast Beef of Old England (‘The Gate of Calais’) 1748
Tate

The term is originally Italian, ‘caricatura’, and caricature appeared in Italian art about 1600 in the work of Annibale Carracci. The word caricature is first recorded in English in 1748, the year, as it happens, that William Hogarth painted his great anti-French satire O the Roast Beef of Old England which includes caricatures of a French monk and French soldiers. Hogarth made extensive use of caricature and it became widespread in Britain thereafter.

A practitioner of genius in the later eighteenth century and early nineteenth century was James Gillray, who used it for political cartooning, a form of caricature that continues to appear every day in our newspapers. Equally gifted was his contemporary Thomas Rowlandson who produced brilliant caricatures of the manners and morals of the time. Max Beerbohm was an outstanding caricaturist in the nineteenth century, and Gerald Scarfe is one of the most powerful working today.

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The real comic book heroes

William Hogarth was one of the founders of a satire that led all the way to the modern comic book ...

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Rudely transgressing the boundaries between the elevated and the profane

The notion of the grotesque in art has been around for centuries, but it is currently being re-imagined, often with ...

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Who farted?

Rude Britannia: British Comic Art:, Tate Britain’s forthcoming exhibition exploring the riotous history of humour in British visual culture ...

Video

Rude Britannia: Gerald Scarfe

TateShots' Comic Art trail continues with a look at satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.

Selected artworks in the collection

Caricature at Tate

Tate Britain Exhibition

James Gillray: The Art of Caricature

5 Jun – 2 Sep 2001
James Gillray: The Art of Caricature past exhibition at Tate Britain
FREE