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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Caricatures of Artists

Some artists are easy to caricature.
For me, it's just a bald head and a beard.

Hint: he's a little French.
Artists have long had at their disposal the talent and tendency to jab in the ribs with a pointed pencil those with whom they wish to ridicule and rebuke. I've done so myself. I even devoted an entire section of my book Art Think (available at right) to the drawing techniques involved in how to lose friends and aggravate people. However, artists have sometimes been at the mercy of the sharp end of the pencil themselves. Would you care to hazard a guess as to who the most caricatured artists of all time might be? His caricature can be seen at right, if that helps any, though one would have to be familiar with his art and his physical appearance to recognize him. As I was chasing down the distorted visages of various artists on the Internet, I was startled to find this man was far and away the most artistically abused of all the artists who ever lived.

Self-caricature. Danziger may owe Norman Rockwell and apology.
Caricature of a Man with a Large
Nose, 1855-56, Claude Monet
Some artists were rabid caricaturists. The French Realist painter and political cartoonist, Honore Daumier, was especially vicious. As a teenager, the French Impressionist, Claude Monet, before he ever lifted a brush or painted his first haystack, was quite adept at caricature (right). Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a caricature drawing of his which I could verify as a self-portrait. According to media accounts, our most recent Ex-president has taken up painting, which makes him fair game for an artist caricature by the political cartoonist, Jeff Danzinger (above). One artist, Paul Gauguin, seems to have painted a caricature of himself somewhat unintentionally as seen in his Symbolist self-portrait with halo (below) from 1889. Gauguin painted almost as many self-portraits as did his (sometimes) friend, Vincent. This one bears a striking resemblance, but is far more distorted or "symbolized" than any of his others. Gauguin was a very serious artist, seemingly devoid of a sense of humor, so it's doubtful this work was meant to be amusing or self-deprecating.

Symbolist self-portrait with halo, 1889, Paul Gauguin
Salvador Dali, Vladymyr Lukash.
The best caricatures capture both
the appearance and the personality.
In general, some people are easy to caricature, others more difficult. Those with relatively attractive, rather unexceptional features are harder to distort and exaggerate than those, such as Salvador Dali (left) with wildly individualistic, even "trademark" features, like his moustache. Vladymyr Lukash emphasizes the moustache, of course, but also the haughty demeanor, even somewhat the element of Surrealism as seen in the open drawers protruding from Dali's jacket. I fit into the "easy" category. Even my middle-school students were all too adept at drawing funny pictures of their teacher--just bald head and a beard. More often than not caricaturists tend to go for their victim's most noticeable single feature. The caricature of Picasso (below, center) below goes for the nose, but does not slight the prominent eyes or upper lip, adding a "Picassoesque" brush and palette just to insure we know who he was visually assaulting. Nico di Mattia takes a much more serious approach to caricature in her painting of the German artist, Albrecht Durer (below, left), quite in keeping with the serious self-importance the artist displayed in his original self-portrait (below, right).

Self-portrait, 1500, Albrecht Durer
Albrecht Durer, Nico di Mattia

Pablo Picasso, also by Lukash
In my book, I included a caricature of Vincent van Gogh as part of a section dealing with the personal problems encountered by some artists. In looking for caricatured images of artists, I found another such drawing apparently done based upon the same painting of the troubled artist which I used. There are similarities, to be sure, but the differences in the two interpretations tell as much about the artist drawing as the one being drawn.
van Gogh, Sahannoyan

copyright, Jim Lane
Vincent, 2010, Jim Lane


I couldn't resist adding this
desecration by an old
friend, Daniel Shouse, who
who has been known to
misuse his talents as a
caricaturist to pick up
girls in bars.
The most caricatured artist of all time?
Toulouse Lautrec (top right)  

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