Friday, September 23, 2011

Jill Krementz covers "Infinite Jest" at the Met

The banner for the exhibition.
Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine
September 13, 2011-March 4, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The exhibition's title derives from Hamlet. Shakespeare's play is quoted in a Civil War print from the 1864 presidential campaign caricaturing candidate General George McClellan as Hamlet and his Republican opponent, President Abraham Lincoln, as the exhumed skull from the play's gravedigger's scene, using the famous line: “I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest.”

Caricature — from the Italian carico and caricare, “to load” and “exaggerate” — distorts human physical characteristics and can be combined with various kinds of satire to convey personal, social, or political meaning. It is a genre that artists have employed through the centuries, exaggerating faces and physiques, showing people as animals and objects in its purest form.

Curated by Nadine Orenstein and Constance McPhee from the Met's Department of Drawings and Prints, the show explores humorous imagery from the Italian Renaissance to the present. The social satirists range from Leonardo da Vinci to David Levine and include Eugène Delacroix, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Thomas Rowlandson, Honoré Daumier, and Al Hirschfeld.

Accompanying the exhibit is a fully illustrated catalogue, Infinite Jest, written by Ms. McPhee and Ms. Orenstein, which is available in the museum's book shops and a must for any devotee of caricature. No kidding.
David Levine, photographed by Jill Krementz at Forum Gallery in New York City on February 10, 1973.

Mr. Levine is one of the many artists on view at the Met. Although this show is devoted to caricature, Mr. Levine was as good a painter as he was a caricaturist. His oil paintings and watercolors were exhibited at Forum Gallery in NY and in galleries around the world. Mr. Levine died in 2009.
He was 83.
"I try first to make the face believable, to give another dimension to a flat, linear drawing; then my distortions seem more acceptable."
― David Levine
The exhibition catalogue, Infinite Jest; $45, hardcover.
Constance McPhee and Nadine Orenstein, who co-curated Infinite Jest mostly from the
Met's collection.
Leonardo da Vinci
Italian, 1452-1519
Head of a Man in Profile, Facing to the Left,
Pen and brown ink, over black chalk

Until well into the eighteenth century, Leonardo was the figure most closely associated with caricature, though it remains a question whether his drawings were intended as such. They may have been made as physiognomic studies for a treatise or simply to record actual people. Leonardo's initial black-chalk sketch portrayed an old man with an enlarged nose and chin, the traces of which are still visible. He later modified the drawing in pen and brown ink to show a somewhat younger man with a shorter, straighter nose. Leonardo often depicted youth as possessing perfectly proportioned features, while he depicted old age as marred by caricaturesque deformity.
Wenceslaus Hollar
Bohemian, 1607-1677
After Leonardo da Vinci
Italian, 1452-1519
Five Grotesque Heads, 1646

Prints by Hollar ensured the popularity in later centuries of Leonardo's physiognomic studies. Hollar had been engaged by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), to make etchings of objects in his vast collection, which included a large group of Leonardo's so-called grotesques. This puzzling sheet displays a range of seemingly unrelated heads woven together by a loose narrative that shows the woman at far right putting her arm around the man at center and possibly attempting to pick his pocket. Although the heads here were probably not intended as caricatures, a certain sense of absurdity about the group suggests humorous intent.
Hans Liefrinck
Netherlandish, 1518(?)-1573
After Leonardo da Vinci
Italian, 1452-1519
Two Grotesque Heads

Liefrinck was most likely working from one of the many drawn copies of Leonardo's heads since there are some differences between this engraving and the original. The face of the man is more naturalistic and that of the woman is coarsely exaggerated and contrasts jarringly with her refined dress.
François-André Vincent
French, 1746-1816
Caricature of the Artist's Younger Brother
Marie-Alexandre-François, 1776
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash

Vincent caricatured fellow artists, friends, and family -- a pastime he picked up during his early years in Rome. Here, in light touches of pen and wash, he drew his squawking younger brother in his waistcoat and britches; his hose are undone and he is wearing slippers.

The joking inscription at the bottom
states: "François Alexandre Vincent in his most flattering undress." In contrast to period depictions of men wearing a dressing gown, a presentable negligée, the artist's brother is humorously shown in a true state of "undress."
Joseph-François Foulquier
French, 1744/45-1789
All Who See Me Jeer at Me, 1773

The amateur etcher Foulquier created many satirical prints.

Here, he incorporated a variety of caricatured heads into a nightmarish narrative. A well-dressed man sporting the head of a wild boar walks by a wall of grotesque faces that turns toward him with scrutinizing gazes. The heads range from coarse peasant types to aristocratic ladies and gentlemen; from a clergyman to members of the animal kingdom. A peasant boy, the only noncaricatured figure in the scene, is seated on a low wall. At lower center, the buttocks of a defecating character become a face with glasses, a traditional symbol of ignorance.

The inscription "All who see me jeer at me" is from Psalm 22:7.
Anonymous, French, early 19th century
Fan Leaf Decorated with Caricatures and Reversible Heads
Etching on prepared green paper

These humorous illustrations include a number of reversible heads in which two faces are joined so that the upper lip of one becomes the chin of the other.

This type of caricature was meant to reveal a hidden alter ego or suggest that two seemingly different people were actually quite similar. Judging by their costume, the characters are primarily French and British and include clerics, soldiers, and men and women of different classes.

The pair of heads at lower left, consisting of a man wearing a wreath and a woman wearing a floral headband, may refer to Emperor Napoleon and his second wife, Empress Marie Louise, who appears in some portraits with a similar headdress.
Right: Detail of the Fan Leaf and trust me, you'll have a lot easier time seeing the reversible heads in this closeup.
Louis-Léopold Boilly
French, 1761-1845
Grimaces, from Recueil de grimaces, 1823-28

This is the illustration which is on the cover of the catalogue accompanying this show.

Boilly's grimacing faces are less invented caricatures than studies of actual exaggerated expressions. For example, he studied his own face for the winking figure with the twisted mouth at upper left, a pose quoted from a drawing done in front of a mirror. He created such prints, as well as several related
paintings and drawings, at a time when physiognomy and facial expression held a great fascination for Europeans. Johann Kasper Lavater's extraordinarily popular studies of physiognomy were consulted in order to discern the character of a person based on his features, and in France performers known as grimaciers produced virtuoso displays of facial expressions.
French, early 19th century
The Convex Petitioner: The Taste of the Day
Hand-colored etching

The figure is a petitioner requesting money from wealthy patrons. Unlike the Concave Petitioner who gets invited into the rich man's home (not shown here but the etching is in the exhibition), the Convex Petitioner, is rebuffed and, as you can see, is taken aback by the shutting door."

The accompanying verse tells us that the convex petitioner who has neither the help of Plutus, the Greek god of wealth, nor the support of a woman, will never succeed. "You will always be brusquely shown to the door, poor petitioner whom we offend."
James Gillray
British, 1756-1815
A Sphere, Projecting against a Plane, January 3, 1792
Hand-colored etching

Gillray demonstrates how exaggeration and contrast are primary sources of visual humor by casting two well-known figures as geometrical opposites.

William Pitt the Younger, Britain's head of government, was a tall, thin, frugal workaholic. The Honorable Albinia Hobart, later Countess of Buckinghamshire, was heavily obese, an amateur thespian, an avid gambler, and a supporter of Pitt's chief political rival, Charles James Fox. Here, they meet in an abstracted space, their physiques exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Pitt stands in profile to represent a plane, while Mrs. Hobart's contours have been dissolved to form a sphere. Gillray emphasized the mathematical foundation of the joke by placing a Euclidian definition below.
Curator Constance McPhee with Victor Navasky. Mr. Navasky is writing a book about caricature for Knopf. Over the years, as editor of The Nation and before that of Monacle, Navasky has published many caricatures including those of David Levine.

Mr. Navasky now teaches at Columbia University Journalism School where he runs their
magazine program.
Ben Waltzer is a graduate of The Columbia School of Journalism and is helping Victor Navasky with his upcoming book. Mr. Waltzer is also a freelance writer and teaches jazz. John Dorfman, Editor-in Chief of Art and

"It's such a pleasure to go to a museum exhibition that makes you laugh--with it, not at it. Infinite Jest shows how visual humor is based on borrowing and appropriation. It also shows that there's no such thing as an inappropriate joke."
Siegfried Woldhek
Dutch, born 1951
The Bush Years: A Summary, 2008
Pen and black ink on graph paper

The noted contemporary Dutch caricaturist Woldhek sums up the years of George W. Bush's presidency in a tumbling stockmarket graph created for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. The downturned arrows not only encapsulate the economic crash that took place during the final months of Bush's last term but also project a negative take on his eight-year presidency.

In the caricatural tradition of depicting people as objects, Woldhek remarkably rendered the features of Bush's face with just a few jagged lines.
Mary Flannagan is one of the Met's press officers working on this exhibition. New York Post's Arts Editor Barbara Hoffman.
Marius de Zayas
Mexican, 1880-1961
Caricature of Leon Dabo, ca. 1910
Brush and ink on paperboard

To escape political persecution, de Zayas moved to New York in 1907 and soon joined the forward-looking circle of artists around Alfred Stieglitz. In Mexico City, de Zayas had submitted caricatures to the newspaper El Diario and now began to send images that mocked local celebrities to the New York Evening World. Stieglitz befriended the young artist and, in 1909 and 1910, showed de Zayas's caricatures at his Fifth Avenue gallery, "291."

This caricature of the American Tonalist painter Leon Dabo references the latter's indistinct style by using few details and leaving the contours of his body partly open. An elegant Art Nouveau line is married to the time-honored caricaturist's technique of distorting size to humorous effect.
Italian, 16th century
Man with Large Face Like an Ass, Man with Small
Face Like a Cat, and Man with Face Like a Monkey,

from Giovanni Battista della Porta, De humana
libri III (Sorrento: Giuseppe Cacchi, 1586)
Letterpress text, engravings

Della Porta theorized that character might be determined by comparing the shapes and sizes of various parts of human physiognomy to those of animals. These pages belong to the section on the sizes of faces. The text informs us that those with large faces are lazy and stupid, those with large brows and faces are slow, and ignorant, while those with very small faces are timid, stingy, and prone to flattery.
French(?), early 19th century
A Giant Monkey in Uniform Holding Up Two Men, after 1825
Lithograph, additions in pen and brown ink, graphite

A giant ape dressed in a military uniform, with the tails of his jacket worn in the front, holds a Pierrot in his left hand and a man with a whip in his right; monkeys hang from the feet of both. This arresting lithograph is the most puzzling of all the works in this exhibition. Suggestions as to where it was created have ranged from Austria to France to Haiti.

Unfortunately, neither the image nor the paper yields much concrete information concerning its origin or purpose. The composition is reminiscent of a weighing of souls in the Last Judgment but one in which both figures, who likely refer to contemporary political personalities or groups, are damned.
James Gillray
British, 1756-1815
A Voluptuary under the Horrors of Digestion, July 2, 1792
Hand-colored etching and stipple engraving

Gillray's famously brutal caricature of George, Prince of Wales, encapsulates the effects of uncontrolled self-indulgence on the heir to the British throne. Sprawled in his chair after a lavish meal, the prince picks his teeth with a meat fork; his lack of gentility is underscored by the overflowing chamber pot at his elbow used to anchor unpaid bills. Just thirty years old, his accumulated ailments can be inferred from remedies piled at right-pills and potions to treat "stinking breath," "piles" (hemorrhoids), venereal disease, and poor digestion. A portrait on the wall suggests a more effective remedy; it depicts Luigi Carnarro, a Venetian nobleman whose life was famously saved by a strict diet. By including "voluptuary" in the title, Gillray invoked contemporary worries that traditional British masculine virtues were being enervated by luxury.
Thomas Rowlandson
British, 1757-1827
Dinners Drest in the Neatest Manner, October 1811
Hand-colored etching

Rowlandson addresses the dilemma faced by all who dine out-the mystery of what takes place behind a closed kitchen door. The title restates the hollow promise made to patrons of an inn, whose kitchen we see in operation. Instead of clean food neatly prepared, a grotesque one-eyed cook rolls out a meat pie while bedewing the dish with rheum dripping from his nose and mouth, the stream stimulated by snuff from a small box. The slovenly standards extend to a maid with an exposed breast who reaches for a dish and fails to notice rats escaping from it.

While Rowlandson trained at the Royal Academy of Arts and could produce sophisticated Rococo compositions, he was also a master of ribaldry. Most of his prints in this vein were issued by Thomas Tegg, a London publisher, who sold the present example for a shilling.
Thomas Rowlandson
British, 1757-1827
Six Stages of Mending a Face, Dedicated with Respect to the
Right Hon b.le Lady Archer,
May 29, 1792
Hand-colored etching

Talk about some things never changing!!

Rowlandson mocks the extreme measures taken by an aging socialite in pursuit of youth and beauty. At upper right, she is shown unadorned-bald, toothless, half-blind, with sagging breasts-then progressively "mending" herself by inserting a false eye and teeth, putting on a long curled wig, and transforming her face and arms with cosmetics. Fashionable clothes and jewelry, and rouge applied with a rabbit's foot, complete the illusion, until she is ready to attend a masquerade.

Lady Sarah Archer, evoked in the print's dedication, was often mocked by caricaturists for her heavy use of makeup. Since face paint and rouge often contained high levels of lead, they could be dangerous, and their users were condemned for sacrificing health to vanity.
Detail of woman applying rouge with a rabbit's foot.
William Heath
British, 1794/95-1840
Modern Oddities by P. Pry Esqr-Pl 1st: The Sleeves Curiously Cut-Petruchio,
Ay There's the Villainy-vide Shakespeare,

June 30, 1829
Hand-colored etching

During the second quarter of the nineteenth century, women's fashions in Britain shifted away from a Neoclassical silhouette.

Tightly corseted bodices returned, accentuated by exaggerated puffed sleeves and full round skirts ending above the ankles to display feet in flat slippers. Heads were adorned with "saladplate hats," wide-brimmed and decorated with ribbons and feathers. William Heath, a cavalry officer turned caricaturist, worked with the publisher Thomas McLean to create a series of popular etchings that exaggerated aspects of the new style to the point of absurdity. For titles, he often borrowed quotations from Shakespeare; this one is derived from a scene in The Taming of the Shrew (4.3.143). Heath signed his prints at the time with a little dandy holding an umbrella, seen here at lower left.
Attributed to R. Rushworth
British, active 1785-86
The Bum Shop, July 11, 1785
Hand-colored etching

By the 1780s the London fashion for high hair had been replaced by an exaggerated female silhouette that featured an inflated bust and an enlarged rump, both achieved with the help of props. In this print, fashionable women visit a "Bum Shop" to try on bustles. The woman in white at far left prepares to leave, having achieved the desired effect. The facetious text below, written by the proprietor "Derriere," assures ladies "to whom Nature in a slovenly moment has been niggardly in her distribution of certain lovely Endowments" that he has become expert at "artfully supplying this necessary appendage of female excellence." A small poodle that has been clipped to imitate the fashion underscores the satirical tone.
British, 18th century
Top and Tail, 1777
Hand-colored etching

To modern eyes this design looks Surreal but it is actually a fashionable, erotic variant of a seventeenth-century print type.

Known as Nobody prints, these featured figures composed only of legs and heads, with nothing in between. Here, the elegant female "nobody" is composed of a huge, elaborately dressed wig sitting atop a bare derrière, the lower extremities clad in white silk stockings, red garters, and high-heeled pumps. Like other fashion satires that mocked the latest trends, this example took aim at the enormous hairdos and wigs that women favored in Britain and France before the French Revolution. The title and the partial nudity frankly acknowledge the sexual appeal of the fashion while simultaneously suggesting that those who followed it were literally brainless.
Thomas Tegg
British, 19th century
Lacing a Dandy, January 26, 1819
Hand-colored etching

Dandies needed help to achieve the silhouette demanded by fashion about 1820. A wasp waist was created with tightly laced stays; padding produced broad shoulders and thighs. This dandy instructs two servants to pull as hard as they can on his corset strings. The dress and the accent of the man at right, as well as the comb in his hair, identify him as a French hairdresser, who jeeringly refers to his master's "John Bull Belly." British humor at the time stereotyped Frenchmen as thin and underfed, contrasting them with overnourished Britons. This embodiment of British manhood is presented as an exemplar of modern ridiculousness.
Thomas Rowlandson
British, 1757-1827
Kick Up at a Hazard Table, ca. 1787-90
Hand-colored etching and aquatint

Men from a range of social classes gather to play hazard, an old English dice game from which modern craps descends. Tensions have erupted to the point of violence after the British officer standing at right has suffered a substantial loss. He aims a pistol at an elderly Frenchman, identified by his long pigtail, who responds in kind to protect his winnings. To stave off disaster, a third gambler prepares to bring down a chair on the officer, while another soldier aims a bottle and a candlestick at the Frenchman. Rowlandson's vortexlike arrangement conveys the disruptive forces that gambling sets loose, and his expressive use of tonal aquatint in this rare prepublication state of the print accentuates the drama. When he produced the image, the artist was himself steadily wagering away a substantial legacy, received in 1789, and was destitute by 1793.
Henri Merke
Swiss, active London, ca. 1760-after 1820
After Thomas Rowlandson
British, 1757-1827
An Artist Traveling in Wales, 1799
Hand-colored aquatint

The protracted Anglo-French conflict between 1792 and 1815 prevented British artists from exploring the Continent. Instead, many sought vistas at home, encouraged by William Gilpin's influential book Observations Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty (1786). Rowlandson's image parodies a strenuous tour through Wales, made in August 1797, with the caricaturist Henry Wigstead. A published account of their trip describes constant fog and rain, rough roads, poor lodgings, spartan food, and wild country folk. In this image, a tall thin figure-possibly Wigstead-balances on a small pony. Man and beast are laden with artistic paraphernalia, all inadequately shielded from the downpour. A rustic family watches in amazement; for them, the artist presents a more interesting spectacle than
the scenery.
Louis Léopold Boilly
French, 1761-1845 The Art Connoisseurs, from Recueil de grimaces, 1823-28
Hand-colored lithograph

Brows furrowed and mouths open, a grotesque gathering of connoisseurs scrutinizes a small painting through monocles and eyeglasses. The men leer at the work and might at any moment turn their attention to the young woman who stands with them.

Boilly poked fun at amateur admirers of art in this sheet, which comes from his enormously popular satirical series of ninety-six lithographs Collection of Grimaces, which depicts artful clusters of heads.
A view of one of the galleries.
James Gillray
British, 1756-1815
After Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Braddyll
British, 1776-1862
The King of Brobdingnag, and Gulliver.-Vide Swift's Gulliver: Voyage to Brobdingnag, June 26, 1803
Etching and aquatint, hand-colored

Napoleon Bonaparte perches on the hand of his enemy King George III, who regards him through a spyglass. Five weeks before this print was published, the tenuous Peace of Amiens between Britain and France had broken down. The title refers to Jonathan's Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), in which the protagonist visits a land of giants, describes his nation's political system to the king, and provokes a disgusted response. At first glance, this image seems supremely confident: the huge figure of King George can barely see his tiny enemy. But Napoleon's swagger and unsheathed saber hint at danger. Indeed, once hostilities resumed, the French began to build a fleet at Boulogne, and Londoners feared they might soon see enemies marching up Piccadilly. Gillray's prints helped establish a paradigmatic image
of Napoleon.
James Gillray
British, 1756-1815
The Plumb-Pudding in Danger;-or-State Epicures Taking un
Petit Souper,
February 26, 1805
Hand-colored etching

Napoleon and the British minister William Pitt face off to carve up a huge globe-shaped pudding. Napoleon, who had crowned himself Emperor of the French two months before this print appeared, had made insincere overtures toward peace with George III. The image suggests that even though his hunger for power remains unsatisfied, the British intend to match him stroke for stroke. The diminutive emperor slices away much of Western Europe. In response, Pitt plunges his trident-shaped fork into the North Atlantic. Knowing it would be unwise to attack his enemy at sea because of Britain's superior navy, Napoleon focused on land campaigns. Gillray here refined his iconic image of Napoleon as a diminutive power-mad general, who in real life was five feet, seven inches tall.
French, active 1813-19
From Top to Bottom ... or Causes and Effects, April 1814
Hand-colored etching

Published in Paris shortly after Napoleon's abdication, this satire suggests that the emperor's fall was predicated by his attempt to wage simultaneous campaigns on opposite sides of Europe. French armies had successfully invaded Spain in 1808 but soon encountered guerrilla resistance backed by British troops. A series of defeats in 1812 forced a withdrawal over the Pyrenees. That year Napoleon led his grand armée into Russia and captured Moscow but again had to retreat after suffering heavy losses, brutal weather, and inadequate supplies.

This image shows the emperor falling from splintering stilts that rest precariously on Madrid and Moscow. He is poised to land on Fontainebleau Palace, where he formally abdicated on April 11, 1814. Unlike British prints, this French image of Napoleon presents a wistful meditation on the downfall of a great man.
Thomas Rowlandson
British, 1757-1827
How to Pluck a Goose, June 10, 1802
Hand-colored etching

A young officer playing the card game casino with three elderly expert females is the "goose" being plucked in this print. The women wear fashionable high-waisted dresses and feathered turbans, and the partners, at left and right, make genteel exclamations over the officer's bad luck. Having already collected "a bumper," or unopposed string of eight tricks, they are about to conclude the game as the woman in spectacles displays a "great casino" (the ten of diamonds) and achieves the winning count of eleven. In Britain, decorum prevented women from gambling at public establishments but allowed them to play for money in private. While the ladies here mask their skill with a veneer of gentility, the print reflects the widespread criticism aimed at women who enriched themselves by acting like
male sharpers.
Justin H. Howard
American, active 1856-80
Chicago Nominee: "I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest ... Where be your gibes now?" -Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 1, 1864
Wood engraving

This biting satire relates to the American presidential campaign of 1864, waged during the Civil War. The Democratic nominee General George McClellan is caricatured as Hamlet in the graveyard scene of Shakespeare's play (actually, in act 5). Here, however, McClellan addresses not the skull of court jester Yorick but the head of President Abraham Lincoln, his Republican opponent. Governor Horatio Seymour of New York is cast as Hamlet's friend Horatio and the gravedigger is a famished Irish immigrant. The title alludes to false newspaper reports that Lincoln had acted with inappropriate levity while touring the battlefield at Antietam, and the image reflects the deep antipathy between the candidates. While commanding the Union armies, McClellan had called Lincoln a fool. Shortly after the general failed to achieve a decisive victory at Antietam in September 1862, he declared himself a Democrat, indicating presidential ambitions, and Lincoln removed him from active duty.
The Met's Harold Holzer is a well-known and respected Lincoln historian.

As you can see, it is from this piece of work that the curators took the show's title, "Infinite Jest," so pay attention my previous caption of the caricature
of Lincoln.
Wendy Moonan, who writes for 1stdibs. Paul Jeromack, one of the writers of Artnet.

"This is such a funny show. I love caricatures and they don't get as much attention as they should."
Sheila Metcalf and Jean Tibbets.
Ariella Budick, art critic for the Financial Times. Benjamin Sutton, a writer for The L Magazine.
Edward Maloney, Editor of Arts Cart. Megan M. Garwood, an Arts and Culture freelance writer for multiple international publications.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
French, 1864-1901
The Clown: M. Joret, 1885
Pen and black ink

Toulouse-Lautrec drew caricatures throughout his career and they informed much of his other work, including the humorous designs he created for song sheets, menus, theater programs, posters, and journals. Here, brisk lines give this clown a wild look and set this exaggerated sketch firmly within the realm of the artist's caricatures.
Joseph W. Simpson
British, born Scotland, 1879-1939
J. Pierpont Morgan, ca. 1906
Black ink and gouache on tracing paper

Simpson moved to London from Glasgow to work as a poster designer and illustrator. He depicted the American banker and collector J. P. Morgan for Lions, a book that caricatured contemporary writers, artists, and philanthropists. The subject has been reduced to pertinent essentials-an imposing figure, piercing eyes, heavy mustache, and discolored nose. As Morgan aged, this last feature had grown bulbous as the result of a progressive skin disease, and official photographers always retouched it. As a caricaturist, Simpson delightedly heightened such distinctive irregularities. Using a strong block of black wash to define Morgan's form, he broke the silhouette only to describe the substantial fist gripping a cane. Sparse, deft ink lines and dots indicate brows furrowed above fierce eyes.
Enrico Caruso
Italian, 1873-1921
Lady with Hat, Southampton, 1920

The famous tenor Enrico Caruso was a skilled amateur caricaturist who drew humorous portraits of friends and associates as a release from his stressful professional life.

Since 1903 Caruso had lived in New York for part of each year while performing at the Metropolitan Opera, and he regularly sent opera-related caricatures to La Follia, a local Italian-language newspaper. The inscription indicates that he created this sketch in Southampton in 1920, perhaps during a visit with his American wife of two years, Dorothy Park Benjamin.

Only a few rapidly applied lines are needed to define a welldressed lady with bobbed hair, tired features, and a beaded necklace. The extended neck and over-shadowing hat brim are slyly manipulated to make the subject resemble
a mushroom.
Al Hirschfeld
American, 1903-2003
Arthur Rubinstein, 1981

As a young man Hirschfeld studied painting and worked only intermittently as a caricaturist. Hirschfeld mastered lithography as a student in Paris in the 1920s and continued to make prints throughout his career. By the 1940s he had developed a style that relied on expressive, looped strokes and little or no shading.

This lithograph of the pianist Arthur Rubinstein demonstrates his late preference for reducing forms to their essentials.

The body is formed from a simple triangle, used to support a thoughtful head and two dynamic hands. Few lines were needed to describe the features: the ear is an X within a C, while the hands, characteristically enlarged, embody the 94-year-old Rubinstein's still-vital musicality.
Al Hirschfeld
American, 1903-2003
Americans in Paris, 1951
Pen and ink over graphite

Hirschfeld drew this animated crowd at the Café de la Paix, near the Paris Opéra, during a 1951 assignment for the travel magazine Holiday. He depicted the expatriate community of artists, writers, and bon vivants who were drawn to the city after World War II.

Here, well-known residents and prominent visitors are gathered in a contemporary conversation piece. Representing the prewar generation is Raymond Duncan, the classically garbed dancer philosopher
at right. Just behind him, an elderly Alice B. Toklas walks by with folded hands.

The American military presence in Europe is indicated by two generals, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Anthony Drexel Biddle, standing at the back.

Near the corner of the café, Hirschfeld placed himself, wide-eyed and bearded, accompanied by his wife, the actress Dolly Haas, wearing sunglasses, and their young daughter, Nina.
Detail of Al Hirschfeld, the artist himself, dead center (black bushy eyebrows and black beard). His wife, the actress Dolly Hess is to the left wearing dark glasses and a hat, accompanied by their young daughter Nina. The other bearded gentleman is Jo Davidson, the American sculptor.
Honoré-Victorin Daumier
French, 1808-1879
"Victor Hugo," from Les Représentans représentés in Le Charivari
July 20, 1849 Lithograph

The literary and political life of Victor Hugo, one of the most frequently portrayed figures of his day, was a favorite subject for caricaturists until his death in 1885. Besides being a well-known author, Hugo was also a politician who began as a conservative before his increasingly liberal republican views forced him into exile. This print was made just after Hugo was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1849. Already famous for his writing, he stands on a large stack of books. Daumier's later caricatures of politicians lack the bite of the venomous attacks he created through September 1835, when laws specifically aimed at restraining the press were instituted.
Honoré-Victorin Daumier
French, 1808-1879
"The Past. The Present. The Future," La Caricature 166 (June 9, 1834)

The king's pear-shaped head displays three faces -- those of the past, the present, and the future -- referring to the great hope that the monarch initially inspired when he rose to power after the Revolution of 1830 and the great hostility that his reign soon engendered. The text accompanying the print in La Caricature notes that the past face is youthful and plump; the present one pale, thin, and anxious; and the future one gloomy and decrepit.
David Levine
American, 1926-2009
Claes Oldenburg, 1969
Pen and black ink on paper

A skilled modern caricaturist, Levine transformed Oldenburg into an approximation of one of his sculptures. At first glance the Pop sculptor appears to be wearing a brimmed cap, but closer examination reveals that his head actually resembles an open-lidded toilet bowl. The reference is to Soft Toilet, a 1966 sculpture exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1969. Levine's drawing was made to illustrate Hilton Kramer's critique of the exhibition in the New York Review of Books and echoes the text's critical tone. Kramer suggested that Oldenburg's acceptance by the art establishment had undermined his early determination to challenge bourgeois taste.
Siegfried Woldhek
Dutch, born 1951
Bush's Voice (Cheney), 2004, revised 2010
Pen and black ink, watercolor

A seething Vice President Dick Cheney, his face distorted by nefariousness, whispers to President George Bush from behind a brightly lit pink curtain. Woldhek contrasts a menacing Cheney, set in shadow, his eyes peering out of his head as though possessed by malevolence, with a seemingly innocuous, barely caricatured Bush. Woldhek, a prominent Dutch caricaturist, plays upon the broadly held image of Cheney as the manipulator behind the Bush administration's most controversial policies.

Woldhek composed this image for the Dutch press during the election campaign for Bush's
second term.
Enrique Chagoya
The Head Ache, A Print after George Cruikshank

In The Head Ache, President Barack Obama is assaulted by little devils who hammer and drill at his head and blow a trumpet in his ear. Chagoya based his humorous take on the president's tribulations in passing a plan to reform the nation's health-care system on an 1819 etching by Cruikshank of the same title.

The earlier Head Ache was a straightforward depiction of a suffering man grasping a useless bottle of medicine. Here, the devils can be seen as the conservative media and Republican politicians who launched an assault against the president and his plan. As he has done previously with etchings by Goya, Chagoya appropriated a print from the past to create a contemporary political statement.
David Levine's widow, Kathy Hayes, in front of her husband's caricature of Claes Oldenburg.

"David would have been so proud to have been hanging in the Met with both da Vinci
and Rowlandson."
The family of David Levine: Kathy Hayes, Nancy Rammel Mann (his daughter), and
Tafv Sampson (his 21-year-old granddaughter).
Lidia Guibert Ferrara is the New York Correspondent for VERVE, an Italian monthly magazine published in Milan. Ms. Ferrara art directed and designed The Arts of David Levine (Knopf, New York, 1978).
Tafv Sampson. Tafv means feather in Creek. Ms. Sampson is half Native-American Creek. Her paternal grandfather was the actor Will Sampson, who played Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and killed Jack Nicholson's character at the end of the movie.
Chris Porterfield, who used to be with Time Magazine, and Kathy Hayes.
David Levine, photographed by Jill Krementz at Forum Gallery in New York City on February 10, 1973.

"I might want to be critical, but I don't want to be destructive. Caricature that goes too far simply lowers the viewer's response to a person as a human being."
― David Levine
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.