4.2 Contemporary caricature

The purpose of this exercise was to analyse and gain a clear understanding of the different between character and caricature.

Key words from the brief:

  • Find examples of contemporary caricature and identify the elements of the drawing that help with the character recognition and where the caricature takes place


There are many fine examples to choose from. I’ve selected a couple of Boris Johnson cartoons created by different illustrators to provide a comparison:

  • David Rowe
  • Steve Bell

David Rowe

David Rowe is an Australian cartoonist who makes satirical cartoons for the Australian Financial Review.

David Rowe Boris Day
Fig 1 – Boris day (2019)

How do you know who this person is?

Boris Johnson has a number of distinguishing physical features. The most obvious is the crazy blonde hair and his physical shape; he’s quite a big man, overweight with a pear-shaped physique. He has quite a large round head.

David Rose has also captured the distinguishing facial features.

How has the illustrator exaggerated or embellished this visual information to provide a caricature?

The additional or exaggerated information that provides the caricature is:

  • The pear-shaped body is exaggerated
  • The head and facial features are much larger in proportion to the body
  • The  bicycle clips are a reference to Boris’s cycling that he was known for when he was Mayor of London.

What are the connotations of their exaggerations?

  • The Union Jack tie and socks are a reminder of his Brexit position
  • The untucked shirt, upturned collar, broken trouser zip and rolled up sleeves go with the crazy unkempt hair style and bicycle clips give the impression of a bumbling buffoon.

Steve Bell

Steve Bell is a British satirical cartoonist whose work regularly appears in The Guardian.

Fig 2 – Monabozza (2019)

Steve Bell has gradually reduced the way he depicts Boris Johnson’s head and face to an arse with a blonde mop of hair.

How do you know who this person is?

Steve Bell takes caricature to an extreme. This image, Monabozza, is a great example. The only reference to the person is the mop of blond hair sitting on top of an arse face. The body shape is more or less true to life.

How has the illustrator exaggerated or embellished this visual information to provide a caricature?

The percentage of caricature in the image in minimal. Boris Johnson is reduced to a mop of blond hair poking out from under a head scarf. The body shape is not the slim female figure in the original painting, it has been enlarged to the approximate size of the Boris character.

The rest of the image is satirical in nature.

What are the connotations of their exaggerations?

The image is a take on probably the best known work of art in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The handwritten text in the bottom right hand corner of the image says ‘After Leonardo‘.

The title of the image is Monabozza. The image consists of a figure in a landscape that is clearly recognisable as the layout and subject in the original painting. The major difference being that the famous face of the melancholy female figure has been replaced by an arse with a blonde shock of hair.

The connotations of the image are subtle and layered. The obvious one is the representation of Boris Johnson as a arse.

Arse: A person’s buttocks or a stupid, irritating or contemptible person. 

The reference to the most visited and well known painting in the world could be a reference to how Boris Johnson or his advisors want him be portrayed; a forward thinking leader with a positive vision for a post-election Britain against a backdrop of a country divided by three years of Brexit drama.

List of illustrations

Figure 1 Rowe, David (2019) Boris Day At: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EAYtRXuWwAA_oEX?format=jpg&name=4096×4096 (Accessed: 01.02.20)

Figure 2 Bell, Steve (2019) Monabozza At: https://www.belltoons.co.uk/bellworks/index.php/leaders/2019/4394_240719_MONABOZZA (Accessed: 01/02/20)

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