ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive: Caricature: The Genius of Miguel Covarrubias

November 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm (Uncategorized)

This post is just the tip of the iceberg… see The Top Ten Reasons To Support The A-HAA for more jaw dropping examples of classic illustration.

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Miguel Covarrubias was one of the most famous artists of his day, but chances are you’ve never heard of him. Caricaturists know his work- Al Hirschfeld studied under Covarrubias and shared a studio with him in 1924. He spoke of Covarrubias’ talent in the same breath as Daumier and Hogarth. Ethnologists and archaeologists know the name of Covarrubias as well. His analysis of pre-Columbian art and the culture of Bali led to books on the subject that have become classics. And his reputation as an anthropologist rivalled any of his peers in that field. Illustrator, caricaturist, anthropologist, author and educator… It’s high time you knew about Covarrubias too!

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

At the age of nineteen, Miguel Covarrubias, already a renowned caricaturist in his home country of Mexico, emigrated to New York City. He was an instant sensation, and his illustrations began appearing in New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Fellow Mexican artist, Diego Rivera described his illustrations as “those caustic but implacably good-humored drawings which, fortunately for his personal safety, people have been misled into calling caricatures. In Covarrubias’ art there is no vicious cruelty, it is all irony untainted with malice; a humor that is young and clean; a precise and well defined plasticity.”

Most of the caricatures from Vanity Fair below depict unlikely pairs of public figures. Click on the links to the Wikipedia entries on these people and see why Covarrubias put them together.


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Jim Londos & Herbert Hoover
(Vanity Fair, August 1932)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Senator Smith W. Brookhart & Marlene Dietrich
(Vanity Fair, September 1932)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Al Capone & Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes
(Vanity Fair, October 1932)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Clark Gable & Edward, Prince of Wales
(Vanity Fair, November 1932)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Ex-King Alfonso & James J. Walker
(Vanity Fair, December 1932)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Mrs. Ella Boole & Miss Texas Guinan
(Vanity Fair, January 1933)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Arthur Brisbane & The Sphinx
(Vanity Fair, May 1933)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Emily Post
(Vanity Fair, December 1933)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Admiral Richard E. Byrd
(Vanity Fair, December 1934)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Sally Rand & Martha Graham
(Vanity Fair, December 1934)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Dr. Samuel Johnson & Alexander Woolcott
(Vanity Fair, March 1935)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Auguste Piccard & William Beebe
(Vanity Fair, April 1935)

Covarrubias was much more than just an illustrator and caricaturist though. His books on Bali and Mexico revealed a careful analytical mind with an eye for detail. The following article from an arts magazine from 1948 encompasses the latter part of Covarrubias’ career…

By Henry C. Pitz
(January 1948)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Many thanks to the ever-faithful supporter of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, Kent Butterworth for sharing this wonderful material from his own collection with us.

If you enjoyed this post, check out… Colliers Magazine Illustrations From the Mid-1930s and the Mid-1940s and also… John Held Jr.’s Flappers, Arthur Szyk’s The New Order and Artzybasheff’s Neurotica, Machinalia and Diablerie.

Stephen Worth
Animation Archive


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