Cartoon drawings have a rich history rooted in the art of caricature. In fact, one of the earliest examples of a cartoon drawing was a caricature of a politician etched on a wall in ancient Pompeii. What was once primarily a vehicle for political satire led to more lighthearted fare, culminating in comic strips, comic books, animated cartoons, and graphic novels. Today, cartoonists still pack a punch in the realm of socio-political commentary (through political cartoons and graphic novels) in addition to creating visually stunning works. If you’re a fan of comics and cartoons, Saatchi art offers a wide array of original cartoon drawings for sale by some of the world’s most talented emerging artists. Explore our selection now!
Though the word “cartoon” is today typically associated with animated entertainment primarily targeted toward children, the term finds its origins in fine art painting (from the Italian “cartone”) during the Middle Ages. Then, a cartoon referred to a to-scale drawing made as a study for paintings (typically frescoes), tapestry, or stained glass. The term first became associated with humorous and/or satirical drawings when it was used in Punch magazine in 1843. Editorial cartoons are typically political and satirical/ironic in nature (also called political cartoons) and usually involve caricatures--cartoon drawings of people which exaggerate their most prominent physical traits. Examples of caricatures poking fun of powerful figures have been found in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Pompeii. In contrast to single-panel political cartoons, light-hearted, “gag” cartoons tended to take on a narrative, multiple-panel structure--and a new section devoted to syndicated “comic strips” were created in newspapers, separate from political cartoons found in editorial sections. Serial comic strips and comic books feature recurring humorous characters such as Snoopy (from the Peanuts Gang created by Charles Shultz), action/adventure characters like Tintin (by Georges Remi, a.k.a. Herge) and superheroes such as Batman (originally drawn by Bob Kane). With the advent of animation, many famous comic strip characters were brought to life onscreen as animated cartoon characters for television and film.
Cartoon drawings feature non-photorealistic, often exaggerated renditions (usually line drawings) of people and objects typically created in the artist’s (or the genre’s) distinctive style. An artist’s (or genre’s) style may involve the regular use of a specific color palette and a distinctive way of drawing certain parts of the body--for example, giving their characters very large eyes (as in anime and manga), or disproportionately large feet, or long spindly legs. Though cartoonists can choose to create very detailed work, drawings of cartoon characters and objects may consist of very basic, two-dimensional lines and simplified shapes.
Notable early political cartoonists include James Gillray, Thomas Nast, and Honore Daumier--the last of whom was sent to prison for his irreverent portrayal of King Louis Philippe of France in a cartoon called “Gargantua” (1832). Rube Goldberg is known for his cartoon drawings of over-complicated machines performing very simple tasks, and his name is now used to describe all contraptions of this type. Cartoonists who’ve enjoyed long careers drawing syndicated comic strips include Al Capp (Li’l Abner), Charles Shultz (Peanuts), Jim Davis (Garfield), Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks), Gary Larson (The Far Side), and Bill Watterston (Calvin and Hobbes). Perhaps the two most well-known cartoonist/animators are Walt Disney and Matt Groening of The Simpsons and Futurama fame. Other notable cartoonists/graphic novelists include Robert Crumb, Craig Thompson, Tom Gauld, Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Katshuiro Otomo, David Lloyd, Enki Bilal, and Gene Luen Yang.