Celebrity CaricatureSelections from Smithsonian Institution Libraries
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Caricature - n. Type of art in which the characteristic features of the human figure are exaggerated for amusement or criticism. (Grove's Dictionary of Art.)

In the late 1990's the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG Library) made a special effort to collect materials on caricature and cartoon in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 1998 exhibition "Celebrity Caricature in America", curated by Wendy Wick Reaves. Among our holdings are more than 80 issues of Vanity Fair, as well as the Raymond W. Smith Collection of Caricature and Cartoon Books of over 500 items. Displayed here is just a small sample from our collection, featuring Al Hirschfeld, Miguel Covarrubias, some of their contemporaries, and works from Vanity Fair.

Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) was a prolific artist and book illustrator. Starting in 1929, he became known for drawings of show business personalities done for the New York Times. Hirschfeld fans search for the name of his daughter, Nina, hidden in most of his caricatures.

Mexican artist and writer Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957) published his illustrations in large circulation newspapers in Mexico. Settling in New York in 1923, he began writing and drawing for Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. He was particularly interested in non-Western societies and their cultural traditions.

Vanity Fair was launched in January 1914, ran until February 1936, and was revived in March 1983. The editor of this "kaleidoscopic review of modern life", Frank Crowninshield, was a former art editor of The Century who had also helped organize the 1913 New York Armory Show and founded the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The magazine sought a liberal upper middle class audience. The AA/PG Library has some 83 issues.

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