Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Eduard Thöny's Caricatures

I always encourage young caricaturists to study the masters of the past, rather than looking too much at the contemporary scene.

Eduard Thöny (1866-1950) was a German caricaturist best known for producing as many as 3400 drawings for the political satire magazine Simplicissimus. 

He was the son of a woodcarver. Many of his silhouettes seem carved in wood.  He studied in Munich and Paris. He traveled with his artist friends to Marseilles, Algiers, Tunis, Naples and Rome.

The graphic impact comes from simplified shapes and well organized tones. He liked to contrast two different characters: young vs. old, rich vs. poor, man vs. woman. According to Kunkel Fine Art:
"In his illustrations for Simplicissimus he depicted figures from all walks of life – members of the aristocracy and the proletariat, military figures and the bourgeoisie, bohemians and the elite. Themes like social vanity, intellectual blindness and moral neglect abound in his work but his drawings were never designed to injure or harm the characters depicted. His intention was that of an anthropologist, using ink, pen and brush to capture the character type behind each individual."

Look at the long toes on this guy and the repeating round forms on the woman.

The cropping of the man's pose makes him seem bigger and closer. He experimented with novel techniques in drawing, combining India ink with opaque white gouache, and laying down tones with a spray technique lends many of the caricatures a painterly quality.

Drunken ladies surround a rich old man, and they have playfully switched hats. Who is in charge of this situation?

The printed work of the day encouraged a limited palette of flat colors defined by a few selected lines.

Eduard Thöny, Munich Largesse, 1911
Mixed media on paper laid down on cardboard, 33.5 : 27 cm
For most of its run, Simplicissimus was tolerated by the government, but over the years, artists, writers, and editors were occasionally fined or jailed for mocking the clergy or the Kaiser. News of these sanctions increased circulation, and the magazine flourished until it began to reinforce the official party line. It went into hiatus in 1944.


Timothy Bollenbaugh said...


His criteria for simplification, contrasts, and clarity is a wonderful reminder.

"...his drawings were never designed to injure or harm the characters depicted..." is especially precious. Al Hirschfeld is another of such a disposition. And, Al said his complicated drawings came when rushed; the simple ones came when given enough time.

Rich said...

the last three caricatures look threatening to me.

Just came across an old Chinese saying:

"Among a hundred talking, there's just one listening: among hundred people listening, there's one who can see."

...something like that;
things may get lost in translation.

eugubino said...

That Looks like King Edward in Paris son of Victoria with the Ladies

zardoz said...

... and laying down tones with a spray technique

The technique of this caricaturist reminds me very much of the one used by the Italian cartoonist Gabriele Galantara in his black and white works. I'd like to know more about this spraying technique. I guess they both didn't use frisket and airbrush. I wonder what are the possible techniques that allow you to get that kind of effects. The only techniques I know involve the use of a straw or a toothbrush, but I wonder if there are other ways to achieve that particular effect.

James Gurney said...

Zardoz, I wondered that too. I have a mouth atomizer:
which all artists used for fixative before spray cans came along. You could also use some kind of fountain pen ink sprayed out of a fine-mist spray bottle:

Eugubino, I think you're right. He did look familiar.

zardoz said...

Thank you very much, James. I suggest you write an article about Gabriele Galantara one day: he was an extraordinary illustrator.