Portraits and Caricatures


A portrait is an artistic representation of a person as a sculpture, painting, photograph which expresses the person’s features and expressions. The purpose is to showcase the personality, likeness and even the mood and emotions of the person. So, in photography, a portrait isn’t a snapshot but a still and composed image which can portray the details filled with even the person’s emotions. For an engaging portrait, the person looks directly at the photographer or the painter.

Roman emperor, Augustus sent his portraits to far ends of his empire to strengthen his reign and authority, according to Brown.edu. During the Renaissance, the interest in portraitures flourished as people liked portraits of Henry 8 made by Hans Holbein. During the Dutch Golden Age, as the merchants grew they exhibited their economic success. Some renowned Dutch painters were Frans Hals or Rembrandt van Rijn who displayed their success and similar concepts. In 1800, the invention of photography made it possible for a wide segment of the population to afford portraits.

Dating back to 9000 and 6000 BC in the pre-pottery Neolithic B period, in the ancient Levant, human skulls were reconstructed as plastered human skulls. It depicts some of the oldest forms of art in the Middle East and reveals how the prehistoric population took great care of their ancestors by burying them underneath their homes. These skulls indicate an example of the earliest sculptures in the history of art.

The early portraits were used to depict rulers rather than body features of the subject so that they’re idealized by the population. But some famous subjects as Akhenaten and other Egyptian pharaohs can be recognized by their distinctive features. Some of the earliest paintings which survived of people who were not rulers are Greco-Roman funeral portraits. The reason that those portraits survived was because of the dry weather of Egypt. These portraits seem to be the only ones which survived in the classical world apart from frescos.


It is the portrait of the artist himself which was common in the Middle Ages but if we go far back in history, the first self-portrait was by the Egyptian Pharoah Akhnaten’s sculptor Bak, who carved his and his wife Taheri’s portrait in 1365 BC. However, it seems like self-portraits go back to cave paintings which showcased the earliest art but they’re now lost.

Official Portrait

As the name suggests, it’s the official record of important personalities as governors, presidents, and kings. The portraits are decorated with official colors and symbols as coat of arms of countries, municipalities or states, flags, or presidential stripes. These portraits are also used as record for events and meetings.

Portrait Photography

One of the most common types of photography. Professional portrait photographers can capture the personalities and emotions of people in their portraits as they earn money through wedding photography, family photography sessions senior portraits and so on.

If we look in the past, we’re able to see how photographers were faced with the technical challenges, where they had to take photos with a 30-second exposure time. The photographers made the subjects sit against plain backgrounds lightened with the soft light from an overhead window. With time, as the photography techniques developed, the photographers didn’t hesitate to take their talents to the battlefields and the far reaches of an ocean, running wild with their paintings.


A caricature is an image showing features of a subject by exaggerating some characteristics and oversimplifying others through sketches, pencil strokes, or other artistic drawings, says Collins. Caricatures may serve a complimenting purpose or an insulting one just totally for entertainment. Politician’s caricatures are used in editorial cartoons and those of movie stars can be seen in entertainment magazines. If we look at the literal meaning of the word “caricature”, it means a “loaded portrait”.

In pre-historian times, some of the earliest caricatures are found in the work of Leonardo da Vinci, who went for people with deformities to use as models. His purpose was to offer an impression of the original, which was more noticeable than the portrait.

Caricature started gaining popularity within the aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where such portraits were used for enjoyment.

Some of the notable caricatures are Sir Max Beerbohm(1872-1956,British), George Cruikshank (1792-1878, British), Honore Daumier (1808-1879, French), Mort Drucker (1929- American), Alex Gard (1900-1948, Russian), Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003, American), Sebastian Kruger (1963, German), David Levine (1926-2009, American), Sam Viviano (1953, American).


Using computer graphics, an effort is being made on producing caricatures automatically or semi-automatically and there are very few programs to create caricatures automatically. A different set of skills is required to make caricatures as compared to caricatures drawn on paper. So, using a computer for caricatures needs advance knowledge of the program’s functionality. With computers, the creation of caricatures is not any simple but a complex method which uses finer coloring textures than those created using traditional ways.

Modern Use

Besides the caricature’s use for political and public ridicule, they’re also used as gift and souvenirs drawn mostly by street vendors. For a small fee, caricatures can be drawn quickly for people for humorous results. This service is offered at carnivals, street fairs, and even weddings. Caricature artists have now become an attraction at tourist points where tourists can have their funny caricatures made in just a couple of minutes for just a small fee. Caricature artists are now also invited to weddings to draw caricatures of guests for entertainment.


There are various museums dedicated to caricature throughout the world. In the Arab World, the first caricature museum was opened in March 2009, at Faygum, Egypt. Among these museums are Museo de la Caricatura of Mexico City, the Caricatura Museum Frankfurt, the Muzeum Karykatury in Warsaw, the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover and the Cartoonmuseum in Basel.

For more information on this topic, see https://designaffe.de/.

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