Steve Bell

For archive of his work see:

His current work and interviews with him are available at:

“It isn’t simply a question of getting the likeness: you have to discover the character behind the face”. 

History of caricature and cartoons

His general approach


Caricature sketchbooks

In this interview Bell discusses his sketchbooks from the party conferences. His approach to exaggerating physical characteristics is pretty uncompromising.  Sometimes this has a political point about hypocrisy ‘people who about complete and utter bullshit’ and ‘pure Blair bollocks’. Highlighting what he sees as a lot of empty speeches and posturing.  But sometimes this does appear unnecessarily cruel on a superficial physical level, and perpetuating well-worn stereotypes. But he has a very acute observation of the different ways people talk and move. His very dynamic quick sketches use a combination of ink, watercolour and what seem to be pastel pencils.

Ed Milliband

Boris and Tory party

This interview about his series of cartoons about the hypocrisy and awful impacts of the Iraq War is very powerful. Here the caricatures are combined with trenchant symbolism with a strong underlying message. This makes the   caricatures meaningful rather than simply physical distortion of demented eyes and big ears. The types of distortion are very varied depending on the point of the other elements of the cartoon. 

Royal wedding. Portraits vs caricature


Jeremy Corbyn

The following video discusses some of the issues involved when he tries to satirise people he actually agrees with.

Contemporary Caricature

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.

See Caricature

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?

Exaggerated portraits

Some caricatures are mainly exaggerated portraits from a particular point of view. These vary in their degree of realism of rendering from outline sketches and cartoon animation-like effects to distorted painterly portraits. Some of these latter are very large – an interesting way of starting a caricature.

Gary Brown: Tony Blair caricature  mainly distorts his face and eyes to give a manic appearance. For more Gary Brown see–a772940-b1880/gary-brown-portraits-posters.htm?&RFID=118792

Steve Brodner

Jan op de Beek  

Jan op de Beeck

This is a relatively sympathetic subdued portrait of Trump. His eyes seem quite wise and avuncular, but  contrast with his puckered somewhat pouting mouth.  See more images from Google search

Sebastian Kruger

Kruger does very large oil portraits distorting the features, but photorealistic.

His website: . More Google images

In the caricature below, the line above Mick Jagger’s head makes him look like a hanged puppet, while his bloodshot eyes stare somewhat accusingly out at us.

Robert Risko

cartoon retro airbrush style

Angela Merkel

Barry Fantoni: His 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. In the image below the tightening of the lips and rabbit-tooth smile seems to indicate meanness. For more See Pinterest board

I also looked for collage caricatures, but could not find nearly as much as I expected. Mostly distorting the face.
Awesome Collage Caricatures


Barack Obama Nick Oliver

Satirical caricature

Other caricaturists combine symbols and narrative together with caricature for satirical commentary on social and political issues.

Thea Brine

hints at caricature but remains true to the character, with very realistic faces but stylised bodies.

See her website

Martin Rowson has a more fantasy-like style with a lot of symbolism and a strong political message. 

See University of Kent archive,  Cartoon Gallery, Guardian archives

Steve Bell

Steve Bell’s powerful satirical caricatures vary significantly for the same subject depending on the message he is trying to convey. This gives his caricatures considerable impact and depth.

See also satirical animated caricatures in Spitting Image.

Robert Risko


Google images

Angela Merkel

Robert Risko ( 1956 -)  is an American caricature artist known for his retro airbrush style. He began his career by following in the footsteps of his mentor Andy Warhol and moved to New York City from Pittsburgh. He started drawing iconic celebrity portraits in his inimitable graphic style for Warhol’s trendy downtown Interview Magazine. His hard edged airbrush style was an instant hit. Risko was influenced by the shiny aesthetic of the 1970s and the Deco revival taking place in New York City at the time. Risko recalls, “New York was a petrie dish of creativity back then with people like Mapplethorpe and Madonna pushing the envelope. It was an amazing time to be starting out then.”

Robert Risko a.k.a. Risko, is today’s most celebrated caricaturist. His style embodies the spirit of the 1930s Vanity Fair caricaturists Miguel Covarrubias and Paolo Garretto the latter of which he corresponded with until his death in 1989.




Caricature Art

What is a caricature?

The word “caricature” essentially means a “loaded portrait” from the Italian caricare—to charge or load.  A caricature is a rendered image showing the features of its subject exaggerating some features and simplifying others while still retaining a likeness that can be recognised. A caricaturist  conventionally draws on (1) the natural characteristics of the subject (the big ears, long nose, etc.); (2) the acquired characteristics (stoop, scars, facial lines etc.); and (3) the vanities (choice of hair style, spectacles, clothes, expressions, and mannerisms).

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?

Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose or be drawn solely for entertainment. Caricatures of politicians are commonly used in editorial cartoons, while caricatures of movie stars are often found in entertainment magazines. Some caricatures are commentaries on social practises.

Caricatures they are typically just as skilful and more influential over a longer period than most portrait paintings. For example the satirical etchings of Napoleon Bonaparte by the British artist James Gillray (1756-1815 depicted the French Emperor as very short and slightly ridiculous, in an oversized hat.Today, as a result, we still think of him as being shorter than he really was.

Caricatures first became a popular genre of fine art in the 16th and 17th century and were created by satirists to ridicule public figures and politicians (a caricature with a moral message is considered a satire). Grotesque art was a term given to portraits where the face is distorted into an ugly form. One of the best examples is a series of ‘grotesque heads’ from the 1490s by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). While the artist probably meant them to represent an extreme facial form (not necessarily drawn for humour), by the 18th century grotesque drawings had been renamed caricatures. 


Ancient Pompeiian graffiti caricature of a politician.


  • Annibale Carracci (and his brother Agostino) in the 1590s were the first to apply the terms carico and caricareIn to some exaggerated portrait sketches they created. The descriptions they left, mention that the images were meant for humour to mock their own artistic theories which they taught at the Bologna Academy.
  • The sculptor Bernini (1598-1680) drew amusing portraits to mock both himself and friends. He wrote that a character could be captured with merely ‘a few pen strokes’
  • Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674-1755),  a Rococo painter was the first artist to set himself up as a professional caricaturist, making a healthy living out of producing amusing drawings of tourists visiting Italy.
  • Italian artist and designer Giuseppe Arcimboldo ((1527-93), active in Prague, who painted a series of burlesque portraits of Emperors and Kings, using painted forms of vegetables, pots, pans and even workmen’s tools.

Northern Europe

Grotesque art:

18th Century

From the 18th century, satirical caricatures became all the rage in France, Britain and America. By the mid 1700s enough Italian caricatures had arrived back in London to peak the interest of the publisher Arthur Pond. Pond printed a set of drawings by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), Carlo Maratti (1625–1713) and Ghezzi, all of which were well received.The advent of the railway meant that magazines could be quickly and widely distributed to an increasingly growing audience. With one stroke of a pen, a politician’s image could be destroyed.
William Hogarth (1697-1764) was one of the first English artists to resort to exaggerated cariacture-style portraiture – mainly in the form of moralistic genre paintings and prints, such asThe Harlot’s Progress“, “The Rake’s Progress“, and “Marriage a la Mode” (see: National Gallery London).

Later in the 18th century, artists started transforming people into other things such as animals, vegetables and fruits.

English caricaturists like James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) depicted politicians of the French Revolution as goats, spiders and pigs to depict lechery, cunning and gluttony. The human face of the subject was added to the body of the animal so that there was no confusion. Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827)  was more of an artist and his work took its inspiration mostly from the public at large. 

19th Century

In Britain Punch magazine was founded (1820s) and quickly became the most popular satirical magazine in the country. John Leech (1817-64) became one of its most famous illustrators. Punch magazine is also credited – during the period 1840-65 – with causing the word “cartoon” to replace the word “caricature”, in particular as regards politicians and political imagery.

George Cruikshank (1792–1878) English artist who created created political prints that attacked the royal family and leading politicians. He famously accepted a £100 bribe to stop printing pictures of King George III. In addition, he was famous for his social caricatures of British life for publications like The Cruikshank Comic Almanack (1835-1853) and Omnibus (1842). Cruikshanks’ New Union Club of 1819 is notable in the context of slavery. He was also a master of book illustration, creating drawings for Charles Dickens and others.

Honoré Daumier (1808–1879, French) French artist and printmaker – now seen as the “father of modern caricature”. He created over 4,000 lithographs, most of them caricatures on political, social, and everyday themes for French newspapers and periodicals. He was famous for his cutting political cartoons in the anti-monarchist weekly La Caricature, one of which got him 6 months in jail for criticizing King Louis Philippe. In 1835, the French authorities banned all seditious types of art, notably political caricatures, whereupon Daumier switched to social cartoons. The key to his success as a satirist, was his ability to match a subject’s mental state to a physical defect. He was greatly admired by important French painters like Delacroix (1793-1863) and Courbet (1819-77).

Jules Cheret (1836-1932)  the French printmaker and poster artist was another indirect contributor to the genre was who developed a cheaper type of colour lithography, used in poster art and publishing.

Thomas Nast (1840–1902 American) editorial cartoonist who is considered the father of political caricature in the United States.  He is often credited with creating the definitive caricature of Santa Claus, and often mistakenly credited with creating the definitive caricatures of the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant.

20th Century

Caricature art was very much in evidence at the turn of the century and after, as the political temperature rose before the advent of television. In the years following the First World War, with the huge growth in newspapers and other periodicals, the genre underwent a renaissance in the United States, with caricatures accorded a popularity rivalling photographs. World leaders were satirized, military leaders were lampooned, as international conferences came and went.

Will Dyson (1880-1938)  the Australian cartoonist which he created a famous drawing in 1919, at the end of World War I. It showed the leaders of the victorious nations walking out of a room, having concluded the treaty of Versailles in their favour. But a young child is weeping in the corner, she is called the Class of 1940. It shows remarkable foresight as many historians regard the outcome of the Versailles treaty as being one of the main causes of World War II.

Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) Illustrator, caricaturist, cartoonist. He was so gifted at drawing, that by the turn of the century he was Germany’s leading political cartoonist, and a successful caricaturist for a clutch of German and American publications. In 1906 he was head-hunted by the Chicago Tribune.

Fine Art: While newspaper caricatures gained in popularity, a number of painters – notably Whistler (1834-1903), Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901), George Grosz (1893-1959), and Ben Shahn (1898-1969) pursued caricature in fine art painting.

Sir Max Beerbohm (1872–1956 British) British artist who had hundreds of his caricatures printed for fashionable magazines of the day like Vanity Fair and Strand Magazine – though despite this he is best remembered for his novel Zuleika Dobson (1911). His style of single-figure caricatures in formalized groupings was established by 1896 and flourished until about 1930. His published works include Caricatures of Twenty-five Gentlemen (1896), The Poets’ Corner (1904), and Rossetti and His Circle (1922). He published widely in fashionable magazines of the time, and his works were exhibited regularly in London at the Carfax Gallery (1901–18) and Leicester Galleries (1911–57).

William Gropper (1897-1977) Celebrated Communist cartoonist, noted for his caricatures and social realist drawings.

Alex Gard (1900–48 Russian) produced over 700 caricatures of celebrities and other fashionable people who frequented popular New York restaurants for the walls of Sardi’s Restaurant in the theatre district of New York City: the first artist to do so. Today the images are part of the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003, American) artist best remembered for his simple black and white drawing of famous celebrities and show-biz stars, as well as his cartoon drawings of politicians and TV stars. He was one of the few artists to be commissioned to provide art for U.S. postal stamps. Hirschfeld’s work appears in several American art museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York). He was even commissioned by the United States Postal Service to provide art for U.S. stamps. Permanent collections of Hirschfeld’s work appear at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and he boasts a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Jose Miguel Covarrubias Duclaud (1904-57) Mexican painter, caricaturist and illustrator whose caricatures of celebrities appeared in The New Yorker and especially Vanity Fair.

David Levine (b.1926)  Americam caricaturist, famous for his pen-and-ink caricatures of famous writers and politicians, published in Time magazine, Playboy magazine, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. His first cartoons appeared in 1963. 

Mort Drucker (b.1929 American) Caricaturist with MAD magazine who became well known for his parodies of movie satires. He combined a comic strip style with caricature likenesses of film actors for Md, and he also contributed covers to Time. He has been recognized for his work with the National Cartoonists Society Special Features Award for 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988, and their Reuben Award for 1987.

Gerald Anthony Scarfe (b.1936) English caricaturist, illustrator for The New Yorker and editorial cartoonist for The Sunday Times. A former friend of the caricaturist Ralph Steadman, Scarfe was an early contributor to the scurrilous magazine Private Eye during the 1960s and 1970s, and also created illustrations for The Daily Sketch, The Evening Standard and Punch magazine. Later he produced caricatures for the credits of the famous satirical TV shows Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, as well as a series of drawings expressing the heroic and heinous characteristics of famous Britons, including: Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, The Beatles and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Ronald Searle

Ralph Steadman (b.1936) British caricaturist and former friend of the artist Gerald Scarfe, he is noted for his political and social illustrations, for the American writer Hunter S. Thompson. In 1979 he was voted Illustrator of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

In Britain, Punch magazine maintained the tradition of political cartoon art and caricature throughout the period 1950-92. Then, during the 1980s, the highly influential and image-shaping British TV show Spitting Image lampooned the politicians and union leaders of the Margaret Thatcher era.

Contemporary Caricaturists

Caricatures continue to remain popular today, and are used in magazines and newspapers to poke fun at film stars, politicians and celebrities. The only thing that has changed is the artist tools. Initially caricaturists used charcoal drawings, pencil or pen and ink drawings, but today an artist has access to graphics programs like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Painter.

Steve Bell

Steve Brodner (b.1954) Brooklyn-born political satirist and water colour artist. Noted for his satirical images of 21st century American politicians like Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

Jan Op De Beeck (b.1958) Belgian caricaturist and expert at cross hatch and finger smearing. Noted for his books on caricature art. Was awarded the title of “World’s Best Caricaturist” in 2003.


S. Jithesh (Indian) is best known for his super-speedy style of Celebrity Caricaturing Stage Shows. He belongs to the genre of the odd and rare species of Performing Caricaturists. He is the first one who courageously and successfully experimented with and explored the performance dimensions of the ‘Art of Caricaturing’ as a perfect ‘Stage Art’ with consistency. He evolved and gave a fine finish to the Infotainment ‘Caricature Stage Show’ or ‘Caricature Concert’ through more than two thousand stages. His ‘Caricature Stage Show’ is a blend of poetry, anecdotes and socio-political satire with super speedy drawing which explores the performing level possibilities of the ‘Art of Caricaturing’. Sketching of more than thousand celebrity caricatures relentlessly with a lightning pace and satirical commentary is the major attraction of his ‘Caricature Stage Shows’. He is widely acclaimed as the ‘World’s Fastest Cartoonist’ Since his amazing ability to sketch 50 celebrity caricatures within 5 minutes.

Sebastian Kruger (b.1963) German artist known for his realistic but grotesque distortions of the faces of celebrities, typically captured in acrylic paint. He is noted for his lifelike depictions of Madonna as well as Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. Kruger’s cartoonist art is regularly published in Playboy magazine as well as Stern, Der Spiegel, L’Espresso, and USA Today.

Hermann Mejia (b.1973) Venezuelan caricaturist noted for his regular contributions to MAD Magazine. Mejia uses multiple techniques in his work, sometimes rendering his illustrations in black and white ink and copious amounts of cross-hatching, sometimes using watercolor, and sometimes combinations of both. Received a Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society in 2003.Hermann Mejia (Venezuelan) is known for his frequent work for MAD Magazine

Gogu Neagoe (1976, Romanian) holds a Guinness World Record for doing 131 caricatures through the phone, without ever seeing the subject.

Robert Risko (b.1956) American artist who uses retro airbrushing techniques. Mentored by Andy Warhol, and influenced by the New York Deco revival, his works have appeared in numerous publications including Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Playboy and Esquire.

Sanford Ross (1907-1954, American) was recognized by New York critics for his lithographic caricatures of New Jersey mansions and civic buildings in the 1930s.

Ed Steckley (b.1973) Milwaukee artist who draws for Cracked magazine
Other well known contemporary caricature artists include Tom Richmond of Mad Magazine, Sam Norkin, Sergio Aragones, Rudy Cristiano, Pancho Willmarth, Bill Plympton, and Bruce Blitz.

Sam Viviano (b.1953) American cartoonist and caricaturist, and art-director of MAD magazine, whose drawings have appeared on the cover of Institutional Investor, in Readers Digest, Rolling Stone magazine, Viviano’s caricatures are known for their wide jaws, which Viviano has explained is a result of his incorporation of side views as well as front views into his distortions of the human face. He has also developed a reputation for his ability to do crowd scenes. Explaining his twice-yearly covers for Institutional Investor magazine, Viviano has said that his upper limit is sixty caricatures in nine days.

Vitali is known for his retro airbrush style. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Playboy, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and Interview.


(see Wikipedia article)

There have been some efforts to produce caricatures automatically or semi-automatically using computer graphics techniques. For example, a system proposed by Akleman et al provides warping tools specifically designed toward rapidly producing caricatures. There are very few software programs designed specifically for automatically creating caricatures.

Computer graphic system requires quite different skill sets to design a caricature as compared to the caricatures created on paper. Thus using a computer in the digital production of caricatures requires advanced knowledge of the program’s functionality. Rather than being a simpler method of caricature creation, it can be a more complex method of creating images that feature finer coloring textures than can be created using more traditional methods.

Susan Brennan in her master’s thesis in 1982 devised a sytem for formalising caricature as the process of exaggerating differences from an average face. For example, if Prince Charles has more prominent ears than the average person, in his caricature the ears will be much larger than normal. Brennan’s system implemented this idea in a partially automated fashion as follows: the operator was required to input a frontal drawing of the desired person having a standardized topology (the number and ordering of lines for every face). She obtained a corresponding drawing of an average male face. Then, the particular face was caricatured simply by subtracting from the particular face the corresponding point on the mean face (the origin being placed in the middle of the face), scaling this difference by a factor larger than one, and adding the scaled difference back onto the mean face.

Mo et al.refined the idea by noting that the population variance of the feature should be taken into account. For example, the distance between the eyes varies less than other features such as the size of the nose. Thus even a small variation in the eye spacing is unusual and should be exaggerated, whereas a correspondingly small change in the nose size relative to the mean would not be unusual enough to be worthy of exaggeration.

On the other hand, Liang et al. argue that caricature varies depending on the artist and cannot be captured in a single definition. Their system uses machine learning techniques to automatically learn and mimic the style of a particular caricature artist, given training data in the form of a number of face photographs and the corresponding caricatures by that artist. The results produced by computer graphic systems are arguably not yet of the same quality as those produced by human artists. For example, most systems are restricted to exactly frontal poses, whereas many or even most manually produced caricatures (and face portraits in general) choose an off-center “three-quarters” view. Brennan’s caricature drawings were frontal-pose line drawings. More recent systems can produce caricatures in a variety of styles, including direct geometric distortion of photographs.

Brennan’s caricature generator was used to test recognition of caricatures. Rhodes, Brennan and Carey demonstrated that caricatures were recognised more accurately than the original images.They used line drawn images but Benson and Perrett showed similar effects with photographic quality images. Explanations for this advantage have been based on both norm-based theories of face recognition and exemplar-based theories of face recognition.

Beside the political and public-figure satire, most contemporary caricatures are used as gifts or souvenirs, often drawn by street vendors. For a small fee, a caricature can be drawn specifically (and quickly) for a patron. These are popular at street fairs, carnivals, and even weddings, often with humorous results. Caricature artists are also popular attractions at many places frequented by tourists, especially oceanfront boardwalks, where vacationers can have a humorous caricature sketched in a few minutes for a small fee. Caricature artists sometimes hire for parties, where they will draw caricatures of the guests for their entertainment.

James Gillray

James Gillray (1757 – 1815) was a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810. His caricatures are almost all in etching, some also with aquatint, and a few using stipple technique. 

James Gillray website Website launched in June 2015 on the 200th anniversary of Gillray’s death as a celebration of his life and works. It includes a chronological catalogue of Gillray’s known prints, a list of major museums and archives where his work can be seen, information about him and his working methods and techniques, and links to short biographical sketches of some of the people he caricatured.


Tate Exhibition 2001

The caricatures

Nearly 1000 caricatures have been attributed to him; while some consider him the author of as many as 1600 or 1700. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, “Gillray is as invaluable to the student of English manners as to the political student, attacking the social follies of the time with scathing satire; and nothing escapes his notice, not even a trifling change of fashion in dress. The great tact Gillray displays in hitting on the ludicrous side of any subject is only equalled by the exquisite finish of his sketches—the finest of which reach an epic grandeur and Miltonic sublimity of conception.”

His sketches are real works of art. The ideas embodied in some of them are sublime and poetically magnificent in their intensity of meaning, while the forthrightness—which some have called coarseness—which others display is characteristic of the general freedom of treatment common in all intellectual departments in the 18th century. 

For detailed discussion of many of the caricatures see the many You Tube videos 

Political Caricatures

The political caricatures comprise an important and invaluable component of the history extant of the latter part of the reign of George III. They were circulated not only in Britain but also throughout Europe, and exerted a powerful influence both in Britain and abroad. George III, George’s wife Queen Charlotte, the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent, then King George IV), Fox, Pitt the Younger, Burke and Napoleon Bonaparte are the most prominent figures. In 1788 appeared two fine caricatures by Gillray. Blood on Thunder fording the Red Sea represents Lord Thurlow carrying Warren Hastings through a sea of gore: Hastings looks very comfortable, and is carrying two large bags of money. Market-Day pictures the ministerialists of the time as cattle for sale.

He was not a keen political adherent of either the Whig or the Tory party. His caricatures satirized members of all sides of the political spectrum.

George III: A number of his most trenchant satires are directed against George III, who, after examining some of Gillray’s sketches, said “I don’t understand these caricatures.” Gillray revenged himself for this utterance by his caricature entitled, A Connoisseur Examining a Cooper, which he is doing by means of a candle on a “save-all”; so that the sketch satirises at once the king’s pretensions to knowledge of art and his miserly habits.

Monstrous Craws, at a New Coalition Feast (1787)

Gillray could also be incredibly subtle, and puncture vanity with a remarkably deft approach. The outstanding example of this is his print Fashionable Contrasts;—or—The Duchess’s little Shoe yeilding [sic] to the Magnitude of the Duke’s Foot. This was a devastating image aimed at the ridiculous sycophancy directed by the press towards Frederica Charlotte Ulrica, Duchess of York, and the supposed daintiness of her feet. The print showed only the feet and ankles of the Duke and Duchess of York, in an obviously copulatory position, with the Duke’s feet enlarged and the Duchess’s feet drawn very small. This print silenced forever the sycophancy of the press regarding the union of the Duke and Duchess.

Fashionable contrasts

 Among Gillray’s best satires on George III are: Farmer George and his Wife, two companion plates, in one of which the king is toasting muffins for breakfast, and in the other the queen is frying sprats; The Anti-Saccharites, where the royal pair propose to dispense with sugar, to the great horror of the family; A Connoisseur Examining a Cooper; the paired plates A Voluptuary under the Horrors of Digestion and Temperance enjoying a Frugal Meal, satirising the excesses of the Prince Regent (later George IV of the United Kingdom) and the miserliness of his father, George III of the United Kingdom respectively; Royal Affability; A Lesson in Apple Dumplings; and The Pigs Possessed.

The Loss of  Faro Bank or – the rook’s pigeon’d (1797)

The Loss of the Faro Bank, Lady Buckinghamshire is told by her cowed husband that a theft of money has taken place; Charles James Fox (1749–1806), a prominent Whig politician of the time, is seated at the card table hoping not to be found out.The enduring quality of this piece lies in the visual metaphors and symbolism Gillray has used: the locks on the door and the visual contrast between the opulence and gambling inside and the panic-stricken husband outside. But it’s the people on the inside that have caused the problem, not those locked out.

French Revolution Gillray took a conservative stance; and he issued caricature after caricature ridiculing the French and Napoleon (usually using Jacobin), and glorifying John Bull. A number of these were published in the Anti-Jacobin Review.

The Plumpudding in Danger -The world being carved up into spheres of influence between Pitt and Napoleon — “probably the most famous political cartoon of all time, it has been stolen over and over and over again by cartoonists ever since.”
John Bull enjoying a meal

Other famous works include: The Bridal Night; The Apotheosis of Hoche, which concentrates the excesses of the French Revolution in one view; The Nursery with Britannia reposing in Peace; The First Kiss these Ten Years (1803), another satire on the peace, which is said to have greatly amused Napoleon; The Hand-Writing upon the Wall; The Confederated Coalition, a swipe at the coalition which superseded the Addington ministry; Uncorking Old Sherry; Making Decent; Comforts of a Bed of Roses; View of the Hustings in Covent Garden; Phaethon Alarmed; and Pandora opening her Box.

Social Critique

The miscellaneous series of caricatures, although they have scarcely the historical importance of the political series, are more readily intelligible, and are even more amusing. Among the finest are: Shakespeare Sacrificed; Flemish Characters (two plates); Two-Penny Whist (which features an image of Hannah Humphrey); Oh that this too solid flesh would melt; Sandwich-Carrots; The Gout; Comfort to the Corns; Begone Dull Care; The Cow-Pock, which gives humorous expression to the popular dread of vaccination; Dilletanti Theatricals; and Harmony before Matrimony and Matrimonial Harmonics—two exceedingly good sketches in violent contrast to each other.

Personal life

The name of Gillray’s publisher and print seller, Miss Hannah Humphrey—whose shop was first at 227 Strand, then in New Bond Street, then in Old Bond Street, and finally in St James’s Street—is inextricably associated with that of the caricaturist himself. Gillray lived with Miss (often called Mrs) Humphrey during the entire period of his fame. It is believed that he several times thought of marrying her, and that on one occasion the pair were on their way to the church, when Gillray said: “This is a foolish affair, methinks, Miss Humphrey. We live very comfortably together; we had better let well alone.”

Gillray’s eyesight began to fail in 1806. He began wearing spectacles but they were unsatisfactory. Unable to work to his previous high standards, James Gillray became depressed and started drinking heavily. He produced his last print in September 1809. As a result of his heavy drinking Gillray suffered from gout throughout his later life.

His last work, from a design by Bunbury, is entitled Interior of a Barber’s Shop in Assize Time, and is dated 1811. While he was engaged on it he became mad, although he had occasional intervals of sanity, which he employed on his last work. The approach of madness may have been hastened by his intemperate habits.

In July 1811 Gillray attempted to kill himself by throwing himself out of an attic window above Humphrey’s shop in St James’s Street. Gillray lapsed into insanity and was looked after by Hannah Humphrey until his death on 1 June 1815 in London; he was buried in St James’s churchyard, Piccadilly.



See also Caricature

Satirical illustration, often used in newspapers and magazines as a form of social and political commentary, centres around the use of caricature, metaphor and humour to hit its targets. Satirical illustration is always of the moment it was created. It comments on contemporary events and to appreciate the message you need to read the image with some knowledge of what’s been going on.

There is a rich history of satirical illustration and political cartooning in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, especially from the eighteenth century onwards.

Research point
Steve Bell, the contemporary political satirist who produces the If… cartoon strip and other editorial pieces for The Guardian, regularly makes reference to the political satire of earlier times by re-working it with a contemporary twist. By doing this he’s also making satirical references to the past – making a link between the contemporary moment and a similar (or different) historical one.
Look at the work of William Hogarth, James Gillray, George Cruikshank or other eighteenthcentury political satirists and pick out examples you think could be successfully re-worked for a contemporary audience. Strip away the layers of eighteenth-century meaning to establish the core symbolism and metaphors that make the satire work. Identify what would you replace with what to make this work for a contemporary setting.

Steve Bell History of caricature and cartoons

William Hogarth

James Gillray

Ronald Searle

Ralph Steadman

George Cruikshank

Steve Bell

William Hogarth

Research Point Project 3.1

The 1751 satirical engravings of Beer Street and Gin Lane were part of a campaign to curb gin drinking among the poor in London.

William Hogarth : Beer Street and Gin Lane 1751
William Hogarth : Beer Street and Gin Lane 1751
Research Point Questions

How has Hogarth has used denotation and connotation? What has he shown literally through denotation to support his anti-gin/pro-beer argument and what is implied through connotation? Think about the visual language and symbolic structure he has used to construct meaning – for example, the use of buildings in good repair or disuse, what’s in the foreground and what’s in the distance. What about the pawnbroker’s symbol and the symbolism in the physical language of the human body – the gestures, poses, sizes? There’s even a dead body in there somewhere. How does Hogarth use these to construct meaning?

In the anti-gin image the eye is drawn particularly to the drunkennes of the woman in the centre and her falling baby – one assumes this is more shocking than the wasted thin man in the bottom right (who probably also has a neglected baby at home). The line of the woman’s body leads the eye to the brawling and coffin in the background. In the middle ground are three figures one of whom is eating bones – this is emphasised through contrasting the white figure against his black hat. The pawnbroker’s shop seems to be doing a brisk trade.

In contrast most of the figures in the beer image are jolly portly men. The woman has a fish trade and is only stopping off temporarily – it seems she is even reading – with her husband? The pawnbroker’s sign is broken and the door shut. The background is festive and orderly.

Further research on Hogarth