|Some of the
earliest caricatures are found in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, who
actively sought people with deformities to use as models. The point was to
offer an impression of the original which was
more striking than a portrait.
Caricature experienced its first successes in the closed aristocratic circles of France and Italy, where such portraits could be passed about for mutual enjoyment.
James Gillray's The Plumb-pudding in danger (1805), which caricatured Pitt and Napoleon, was voted the most famous of all UK political cartoons.While the first book on caricature drawing to be published in England was Mary Darly's A Book of Caricaturas (c. 1762), the first known North American caricatures were drawn in 1759 during the battle for
Quebec. These caricatures were the work of Brig.-Gen. George Townshend whose caricatures of British General James Wolfe, depicted as "Deformed and crass and hideous" (Snell), were drawn to
amuse fellow officers
 Elsewhere, two great practitioners of the
art of caricature in 18th-century Britain were Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827)
and James Gillray (1757–1815). Rowlandson was more of
an artist and his work took its inspiration mostly from the public at large. Gillray was more concerned with the vicious visual satirisation of political life. They were, however, great friends and caroused together
in the pubs of London. See the Tate Gallery's exhibit "James Gillray: The Art of Caricature"
In a lecture titled The History and Art of Caricature (September 2007, Queen Mary 2 Lecture theatre), the British caricaturist Ted Harrison said that the caricaturist can choose to either mock or wound the
subject with an effective caricature. Drawing caricatures can simply be a form of entertainment and amusement – in which case gentle mockery is in order – or the art can be employed to make a serious
social or political point. A caricaturist draws on (1) the natural characteristics of the subject (the big ears, long nose, etc.); (2) the acquired characteristics (stoop, scars, facial lines etc.); and (3) the vanities
(choice of hair style, spectacles, clothes, expressions, and mannerisms).