A Brief History of Cartoons & Funny Pictures

January 13th, 2011 3:04 am

For as long as man has been able to paint and draw, funny pictures and cartoons have been depicted on caves walls, canvas, paper, floors, ceilings and even skin!

Many award-winning artists have drawn and painted comical and funny pictures not to mention such legendary historical figures as Raphael and Leonardo De Vinci whose comical works are highly regarded.

In the 15th-century the printing press was popularised by Johann Gutenberg and later this invention gave rise to the ability to replicate satirical images for widespread distribution to the masses. In the 16th-century humorous cartoon strips gave politicians the ability to reach illiterate people to further their cause and win precious votes. They were also a powerful tool of propaganda and party policy.

Contrary to the famous Queen Victoria saying, “We are not amused” the Victorians were actually very easily titillated and throughout the 19th century funny pictures were depicted on Victorian postcards in various formats from slapstick scenes to the more innuendo orientated themes

In the 1890′s the invention of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope heralded the age of animation screening rudimentary projection technology. Many people of the time saw the enormous potential this novel invention would provide.

The name Disney is synonymous with animation and in 1928 we saw the birth of Mickey Mouse who is still today one of the most iconic and recognised symbols in the world. In the 1950′s the United States also saw another company emerge, Hanna-Barbera Productions which went on to produce many classic cartoons, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and The Yogi Bear show to name just a few.

Technology has come a long way and from early cartoons in comics and funny pictures on postcards and newspapers we are now treated to high spec digital animation with films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

Caricatures And Cartoons

December 22nd, 2010 4:43 am

A caricature is a portrait, picture or cartoon that exaggerates or distorts certain features of a person or item to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. Caricatures can be discourteous or complimentary and can serve a political purpose or be drawn simply for entertainment. Caricatures of politicians are often used in editorial cartoons, whilst caricatures of movie stars are frequently seen in entertainment magazines.

So, the word “caricature” essentially means a “loaded portrait”. Strictly speaking, the term refers merely to depictions of real-life people, and not to cartoon fabrications of fictional characters. However the world-renowned animator Walt Disney claimed that his animation work could be likened to caricature, saying the most difficult thing to do was find the caricature of an animal that worked best as a human-like character.

The purpose of a caricature was to offer an impression of the original which was more striking than a portrait. Diodemmar Casem, one of the great early exponents, claimed to be able to sum up a person in ” three or four strokes of the pen”. Caricature experienced its first successes in the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where such portraits would be passed about for mutual satisfaction.

Mary Darley was one of the first professional caricaturists in England and about 1762 published the first book of caricature drawing in England – A Book of Caricaturas. However, the two greatest proponents of the art of the caricature in the 18th century were Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray. Their styles of work were in great contrast. Rowlandson was the more artistic of the two and took his inspiration from the public at large.

Gillray, on the other hand, was more interested in the political scene and used his art to lampoon political life. Being contemporaries they became great friends and used to spend a great deal of time getting drunk in the taverns of London. In drawing a caricature the caricaturist can choose to either subtly mock or cruelly wound his subject. Drawing caricatures can simply be a form of entertainment and amusement – in which case gentle mockery is in order – or the art can be employed to make a significant social or political point.

Although caricaturists like Gillray increased a lot of controversy in the 18th century by their portrayal of the Royal family and especially George III, it was nothing compared to the present day uproar in the Muslim world brought about by cartoons caricaturing the prophet Mohammed. So the contemporary day caricaturist continues in the satirical mode of his illustrious predecessors.