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Oct 22, 2008
David Levine’s 1966 caricature of LBJ showing off his scar
From a recent NYTimes article on political caricature:
Levine…created a powerful image of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 by alluding to an almost trivial incident: Johnson exposing the scar on his belly from a recent gall bladder operation. But Mr. Levine turned the scar into a defining physical characteristic of the man. He also turned it into his defining political characteristic because the scar was a map of Vietnam. The caricature was accurate to the point of prophecy: it showed the wound that was to bring down the president.
More from the article:
Physically, caricature typically takes a particular feature — a hairdo, a verbal tic, a hand gesture, an accent — and exaggerates it, giving it such prominence that we come to see the person in a new and different light….The word comes from the Italian “caricare,” meaning “to overload.” Some characteristic is heavily piled on: the elongated nose, the prominent belly, the bulbous eyes. Caricature seems to have its earliest associations with portraits that showed human subjects to be transformed animals. This can be just a trick of perception, but the art comes from connecting physical characteristics to character, the way Leonardo da Vinci did in his human-animal hybrids. For a great caricaturist, physiognomy is a reflection of the hidden soul: by showing us something exaggerated, something overlooked is revealed.
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