Caricature: The Genius of Miguel Covarrubias

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 Animation Resources, Kent Butterworth for sharing this wonderful material from his own collection with us.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.

4 Responses to “Caricature: The Genius of Miguel Covarrubias”

  1. rkjklm says:

    Great research…thanks for including outstanding illustrations. Do you know anything about another but lesser known caricaturist, Matias Santoyo, a fellow Mexican and contempory of Covarrubias? Santoyo traveled and lived in New York City and California during the late 1920s until @ 1935. During that time some of his work was published in Theater Magazine and The New Yorker amongst others. He drew a famous minimalist line drawing/portrait of Diego Rivera that was published in what I believe was a periodical for Latin American ex-pats living in NY.
    After finding info about a few murals he painted in Mexico during the 1930s after he was ordered to leave the US (something about helping an assistant movie director smuggle a young and underage girl into the US from Mexico) my research abruptly ends.

    • David Santoyo says:

      He was my Grandfather is survived by his son Victor Leonardo Santoyo.
      My grandfather dies in Mexico city in 1974 … recently he had a revival and show of his works in Mexico City.

      • Kim W says:


        Thank you so very much for responding to my query and am thrilled to correspond with the grandson of Matias Santoyo. Last year I emailed Elisa Lozano, the curator of your grandfather’s 2009 exhibition Festival Internacional Cervantino who was kind enough to confirm for me that the painting I purchased in 2008 was indeed painted by Matias Santoyo.
        Is there an email address where I can contact you? I am very interested in learning more about your grandfather and his life after 1935 when he left the USA following the filming of “Viva Villa”.

  2. Jane Reisman says:

    Caracature of Leo Reisman

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