In this short post, I would like to differentiate between cartoons and caricatures, and then discuss the gray area that lies between the two.
I’ll begin by reaching out for my Merriam Webster Collegiate dictionary – Tenth Edition. Yes, I do it the old way…lug that bulky tome to my table and then patiently flip the pages until I find the word that I am looking for! I find the word “caricature” – in the first column of page 173. Let me pick the definition for you.
“A caricature implies a ludicrous exaggeration of the characteristic features of a subject.”
And now I flip a couple more pages to find the term cartoon.
“A ludicrously simplistic, unrealistic, one-dimensional portrayal/a preparatory drawing.”
As you can see, a caricature exaggerates the characteristic features of a subject (person, place, or thing,) whereas a cartoon is a simplistic, unrealistic, one-dimensional(?) portrayal (of what? – anything, even that of an abstract concept.) Notice the elements missing from a cartoon – a “real” subject, whose features are being exaggerated, also notice the additional element of simplistic rendering.
So exaggeration of the defining features would lead to a caricature – ex: caricature of Bill Clinton, with his nose, his jaw, his florid complexion – all exaggerated, leading to his picture becoming a funnier version of the subject’s likeness.
And a simplistic rendering of anything (including a subject: person, place, thing, concept) would be a cartoon – ex: the following cartoon drawing includes cartoons of three persons, a few objects, and presents a concept.
But then a caricature of a person may be rendered simplistically enough to be called a cartoon too, and hence the confusion. For example, the cartoons of Ajit Ninan published in The Times of India are not just simplistic renderings, but they also exaggerate the characteristic features of the politicians to poke fun on them. While they are still cartoons (simplistic rendering,) they are also caricatures of specific subjects.
Hope this boring post has managed to clarify matters 🙂
Now hop to my art gallery here to enjoy some colorful caricatures.