line Around the Town

spacer The Marx Brothers spacer Eddie Cantor spacer Enrico Caruso vanity case

spacer Sardi's caricatures spacer Radio Talent

The celebrity caricature fad peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. Frueh's art exhibitions, Barton's curtain, Covarrubias's book of portraits, and Sardi's walls all inspired imitations. Stylized faces permeated the press. Although the number of newspapers decreased, artists found new outlets in the magazines. Art galleries showed renewed interest as color enlivened form. Caricature also advertised products and ornamented cigarette cases. Masks and dolls of movie stars provided souvenirs to devoted fans.

By midcentury, however, the fad was on the wane. Images of Hitler, Hirohito, or Mussolini had not suggested witty celebrations of fame. Although some magazines of the 1940s still demanded caricature, editors increasingly preferred photographs. Existentialism, abstract expressionism, and the theater of the absurd revealed new fashions in art and humor. Caricature evolved into different forms and specialized niches. The flowering of celebrity caricature thus remains a story of the first half of the century. Speaking to a generation wrestling with mass-media generated fame, caricature delivered a bracing astringent to the modern urban audience.

1. The Marx Brothers /Al Hirschfeld
2. Eddie Cantor /Frederick J. Garner
3. Enrico Caruso vanity case/ La Cloche, after Enrico Caruso
4. Sardi's caricatures/Alex Gard
5. Radio Talent/Miguel Covarrubias

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