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Celebrity Caricature in America

Wendy Wick Reaves

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ISBN 10: 0300074638 / ISBN 13: 9780300074635
Published by Smithsonian Institution And Yale University Press, New Haven And London, 1998
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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About this Item

First edition, signed by author. Inscribed on half title page: "To Harry, With great respect and gratitude--I'm lucky to have you as a colleague. Wendy May 1998." Red cloth boards with gilt lettering on spine. No tears. Endpapers and pages clean, crisp and unmarked, tight in binding. DJ unclipped, very light wrinkling along top of spine and bottom of back cover. Oversized format; **may require extra postage. Bookseller Inventory # 001660

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Celebrity Caricature in America

Publisher: Smithsonian Institution And Yale University Press, New Haven And London

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First Edition

About this title


Mae West, George Gershwin, the Marx Brothers, Babe Ruth - these were just a few of the celebrities caricatured in popular American periodicals during the first half of the 20th century. This book presents hundreds of these rediscovered drawings and introduces a type of portraiture based on modern design and a preoccupation with personality-based fame. Wendy Wick Reaves explores the roots of celebrity caricature in the pre-World War I culture of New York and charts its growth into a fad during the 1920s and 1930s. She tells how caricatures of the famous permeated the press - "Vanity Fair", the "New Yorker", the "New York World" and other periodicals - and appeared as well on silk dresses, theatre curtains and cigarette cases. She recounts the careers of many of the masters of the art, including Al Hirschfeld, Miguel Covarrubias, Al Frueh, Ralph Barton and Marius de Zayas, and shows how their stylized portraits of the famous reveal the roots of a celebrity culture in which, as gossip columnist Walter Winchell pointed out, social position was "more a matter of press than prestige". Reaves contends that this modern caricature - with its abbreviation, provocation, wit, figural distortion and dissonant colour contrasts - was a type of portraiture that captures the essence of the times and influenced other arts. Celebrity caricature had appeal to an audience hungry for emblems of the emerging urban culture. This book accompanies the first comprehensive exhibition on celebrity caricature, which will open at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, USA in April 1998.


Early on in this survey of twentieth-century caricature there is an amusingly economical line drawing of a genial, jowly cardinal. It looks thoroughly modern. It was done before 1633. Kindly caricature was not invented in the United States, but it flourished here from, roughly, 1900 to the Second World War, with innovative artists employing avant-garde styles to portray not the character of the subject but the public perception of a well-known personage. There was much skill and wit involved in the game, and rarely even a hint of malice. Ms. Reaves's presentation of these clever drawings can raise a chuckle even when one has no recollection of the celebrated subject. -- The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams

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