A cartoon is a type of two-dimensional illustration, possibly
animated. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern
usage refers to (a) a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic
artistic style of drawing or painting, (b) an image or series of
images intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or (c) a motion
picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation.
An artist who creates cartoons is called a cartoonist.
The concept originated in the
Middle Ages and first described a
preparatory drawing for a piece of art, such as a painting, fresco,
tapestry, or stained glass window. In the 19th century, it came to
refer to humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers, and after
the early 20th century, it referred to comic strips and animated
1 Fine art
2 Print media
2.1 Political cartoons
2.2 Scientific cartoons
2.3 Comic Books
4 See also
6 External links
Main article: Modello
A cartoon (from Italian: cartone and Dutch: karton—words describing
strong, heavy paper or pasteboard) is a full-size drawing made on
sturdy paper as a study or modello for a painting, stained glass or
tapestry. Cartoons were typically used in the production of frescoes,
to accurately link the component parts of the composition when painted
on damp plaster over a series of days (giornate).
Such cartoons often have pinpricks along the outlines of the design so
that a bag of soot patted or "pounced" over the cartoon, held against
the wall, would leave black dots on the plaster ("pouncing"). Cartoons
by painters, such as the
Raphael Cartoons in London, and examples by
Leonardo da Vinci, are highly prized in their own right. Tapestry
cartoons, usually coloured, were followed with the eye by the weavers
on the loom.
Cartoon no.1: Substance and Shadow, 1843, satirized
preparatory cartoons for frescoes in the Palace of Westminster,
creating the modern meaning of "cartoon"
In modern print media, a cartoon is an illustration or series of
illustrations, usually humorous in intent. This usage dates from 1843,
Punch magazine applied the term to satirical drawings in its
pages, particularly sketches by John Leech. The first of these
parodied the preparatory cartoons for grand historical frescoes in the
then-new Palace of Westminster. The original title for these drawings
was Mr Punch's face is the letter Q and the new title "cartoon" was
intended to be ironic, a reference to the self-aggrandizing posturing
of Westminster politicians.
Cartoons can be divided into gag cartoons, which include editorial
cartoons, and comic strips.
Modern single-panel gag cartoons, found in magazines, generally
consist of a single drawing with a typeset caption positioned beneath,
or—much less often—a speech balloon. Newspaper syndicates have
also distributed single-panel gag cartoons by Mel Calman, Bill Holman,
Gary Larson, George Lichty,
Fred Neher and others. Many consider New
Peter Arno the father of the modern gag cartoon (as
did Arno himself). The roster of magazine gag cartoonists includes
names like Charles Addams,
Charles Barsotti and Chon Day.
Jerry Marcus and
Virgil Partch began as magazine gag
cartoonists and moved to syndicated comic strips. Richard Thompson is
noteworthy in the area of newspaper cartoon illustration; he
illustrated numerous feature articles in
The Washington Post
The Washington Post before
creating his Cul de Sac comic strip. The sports section of newspapers
usually featured cartoons, sometimes including syndicated features
such as Chester "Chet" Brown's All in Sport.
Editorial cartoons are found almost exclusively in news publications
and news websites. Although they also employ humor, they are more
serious in tone, commonly using irony or satire. The art usually acts
as a visual metaphor to illustrate a point of view on current social
and/or political topics.
Editorial cartoons often include speech
balloons and sometimes use multiple panels. Editorial cartoonists of
note include Herblock, David Low, Jeff MacNelly, Mike Peters and
Comic strips, also known as cartoon strips in the United Kingdom, are
found daily in newspapers worldwide, and are usually a short series of
cartoon illustrations in sequence. In the United States, they are not
commonly called "cartoons" themselves, but rather "comics" or
"funnies". Nonetheless, the creators of comic strips—as well as
comic books and graphic novels—are usually referred to as
"cartoonists". Although humor is the most prevalent subject matter,
adventure and drama are also represented in this medium. Some
noteworthy cartoonists of humorous comic strips are Scott Adams, Steve
Bell, Charles Schulz, E. C. Segar,
Mort Walker and Bill Watterson.
Main article: Editorial cartoon
Political cartoons are like illustrated editorial that serve visual
commentaries on political events. They offer subtle criticism which
are cleverly quoted with humour and satire to the extent that the
criticized does not get embitered.
The pictorial satire of
William Hogarth is regarded as a precursor to
the development of political cartoons in 18th century England.
George Townshend produced some of the first overtly political cartoons
and caricatures in the 1750s. The medium began to develop in the
latter part of the 18th century under the direction of its great
James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson, both from London.
Gillray explored the use of the medium for lampooning and caricature,
and has been referred to as the father of the political cartoon.
By calling the king, prime ministers and generals to account for their
behaviour, many of Gillray's satires were directed against George III,
depicting him as a pretentious buffoon, while the bulk of his work was
dedicated to ridiculing the ambitions of revolutionary France and
George Cruikshank became the leading cartoonist in the
period following Gillray, from 1815 until the 1840s. His career was
renowned for his social caricatures of English life for popular
Nast depicts the Tweed Ring: "Who stole the people's money?" / "'Twas
By the mid 19th century, major political newspapers in many other
countries featured cartoons commenting on the politics of the day.
Thomas Nast, in New York City, showed how realistic German drawing
techniques could redefine American cartooning. His 160 cartoons
relentlessly pursued the criminal characteristic of the Tweed machine
in New York City, and helped bring it down. Indeed, Tweed was arrested
in Spain when police identified him from Nast's cartoons. Sir John
Tenniel was the toast of London.
Political cartoons can be humorous or satirical, sometimes with
piercing effect. The target of the humor may complain, but they can
seldom fight back. Lawsuits have been very rare; the first successful
lawsuit against a cartoonist in over a century in Britain came in
1921, when J. H. Thomas, the leader of the National Union of
Railwaymen (NUR), initiated libel proceedings against the magazine of
the British Communist Party. Thomas claimed defamation in the form of
cartoons and words depicting the events of "Black Friday", when he
allegedly betrayed the locked-out Miners' Federation. To Thomas, the
framing of his image by the far left threatened to grievously degrade
his character in the popular imagination. Soviet-inspired communism
was a new element in European politics, and cartoonists unrestrained
by tradition tested the boundaries of libel law. Thomas won the
lawsuit and restored his reputation.
Cartoons have also found their place in the world of science,
mathematics and technology. Cartoons related to chemistry are, for
example, xkcd, which varies its subject matter, and the Wonderlab,
which looks at daily life in the lab. In the U.S., one well-known
cartoonist for these fields is Sidney Harris. Not all, but many of
Gary Larson's cartoons have a scientific flavor.
Main article: Comic book
First issue (1937) of Dandy comic book for boys in Britain.
Books with cartoons are usually magazine-format "comic books," or
occasionally reprints of newspaper cartoons.
In Britain in the 1930s adventure magazines became quite popular,
especially those published by DC Thomson; the publisher sent observers
around the country to talk to boys and learn what they wanted to read
about. The story line in magazines, comic books and cinema that most
appealed to boys was the glamorous heroism of British soldiers
fighting wars that were exciting and just. D.C. Thomson issued the
The Dandy Comic in December 1937. It had a revolutionary design
that broke away from the usual children's comics that were published
broadsheet in size and not very colourful. Thomson capitalized on its
success with a similar product
The Beano in 1938.
On some occasions, new gag cartoons have been created for book
publication, as was the case with Think Small, a 1967 promotional book
distributed as a giveaway by
Bill Hoest and other
cartoonists of that decade drew cartoons showing Volkswagens, and
these were published along with humorous automotive essays by such
humorists as H. Allen Smith, Roger Price and Jean Shepherd. The book's
design juxtaposed each cartoon alongside a photograph of the cartoon's
An animated cartoon horse, drawn by rotoscoping from Eadweard
Muybridge's 19th-century photos
Main article: Animated cartoon
Because of the stylistic similarities between comic strips and early
animated movies, cartoon came to refer to animation, and the word
"cartoon" is currently used in reference to both animated cartoons and
gag cartoons. While animation designates any style of illustrated
images seen in rapid succession to give the impression of movement,
the word "cartoon" is most often used as a descriptor for television
programs and short films aimed at children, possibly featuring
anthropomorphized animals, superheroes, the adventures of child
protagonists and/or related themes.
At the end of the 1980s, "cartoon" was shortened in some cases to
create the word "toon", which came into use with the combined
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Two years
later, the animated TV series
Tiny Toon Adventures
Tiny Toon Adventures (1990) demonstrated
the use of the term.
Visual arts portal
Cartoon Library & Museum
List of comic strips
List of cartoonists
List of editorial cartoonists
^ Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.
^ a b c d Becker 1959
^ Constable 1954, p. 115.
^ Adelson 1994, p. 330.
^ Punch.co.uk. "History of the Cartoon".
^ Adler & Hill 2008, p. 30.
^ Bishop 2009, p. 92.
^ a b Press 1981, p. 34.
^ Chris Upton. "Birth of England's pocket cartoon".
^ a b Rowson 2015.
^ Adler & Hill 2008, p. 24.
^ Adler & Hill 2008, pp. 49–50.
^ Morris & Tenniel 2005, p. 344.
^ Samuel S. Hyde, "'Please, Sir, he called me “Jimmy!' Political
Cartooning before the Law: 'Black Friday,' J.H. Thomas, and the
Communist Libel Trial of 1921," Contemporary British History (2011)
25#4 pp 521-550
^ Ernest Sackville Turner, Boys Will Be Boys: The Story of Sweeney
Todd, Deadwood Dick, Sexton Blake, Billy Bunter, Dick Barton et al.
(3rd ed. 1975).
^ M. Keith Booker (2014).
Comics through Time: A History of Icons,
Idols, and Ideas [4 volumes]: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas.
^ Walasek 2009, p. 116.
^ Wells 2008, p. 41.
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Morris, Frankie; Tenniel, Sir John (2005). Artist Of Wonderland: The
Life, Political Cartoons, And Illustrations Of Tenniel. University of
Press, Charles (1981). The Political Cartoon. Fairleigh Dickinson
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Strip Art. G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Rowson, Martin (21 March 2015). "Satire, sewers and statesmen: why
James Gillray was king of the cartoon". The Guardian.
Walasek, Helen (2009). The Best of Punch Cartoons: 2,000 Humor
Classics. England: Overlook Press. ISBN 1-5902-0308-9.
Wells, Paul (November 28, 2008). The Animated Bestiary: Animals,
Cartoons, and Culture. Rutgers University Press.
Yockey, Steve (2008). Cartoon. Samuel French.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cartoons.
Look up cartoon in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Dan Becker, History of Cartoons
Marchand collection cartoons & photos
Stamp Act 1765 with British & American cartoons
Harper's Weekly 150 cartoons on elections 1860-1912; Reconstruction
topics; Chinese exclusion; plus American Political Prints from the
Library of Congress, 1766–1876
"Graphic Witness" political caricatures in history
current editorial cartoons
Index of cartoonists in the Fred Waring Collection
International Society for
Fiore, R. (2010-01-31). "Adventures in Nomenclature: Literal, Liberal
and Freestyle". The
Comics Journal. Fantagraphics Books. Retrieved