Research point
Find examples of contemporary caricature and identify the elements of the drawing that help with the character recognition and where the caricature takes place. From the information contained in the drawing, how do you know who this person is? How has the illustrator exaggerated or embellished this visual information to provide a caricature? What are the connotations of their exaggerations? Reflect on this in your learning log.

While symbolism and metaphor underpins the structure of satirical cartoons, caricature provides both its currency and its bite. Caricature communicates who you are talking about to an audience, and it also provides some commentary on what you think of them.

As Hogarth’s The Bench points out, there’s a difference between character and caricature.

  • Character is about recognising the person, caricature about commenting on that person. This is a process of denotation – we need to know accurately who this is;
  • For caricature to work, you need to capture the essence of the person from a ‘I know who that person is’ to ‘I know what that person thinks, feels, how they act’ perspective.  This second is about connotation
    – what are you saying about this person?

Steve Bell


Gary Brown has done something similar with Blair’s eyes, which hints at
this representation of him having currency as a visual language.

Barry Fantoni’s portraits of 70s and 80s television celebrities, while exaggerating facial features and expressions for comic effect, are centred on being able to represent the character accurately.

Contemporary illustrator Thea Brine works in a similar way, hinting at
caricature but remaining true to the character.

By comparison, the work of contemporary cartoonist Martin Rowson is a lot more exaggerated, more heavily loaded with symbolism and as a consequence has a lot more satirical bite – it’s much sharper and closer to the bone than Fantoni’s and Brine’s warmer portrayals.

Ronald Searle