Regardless of what some contemporary caricature carvers might like to believe, they did not invent caricature carving. Although I have narrowed my article to North American caricature carving; I would be remiss if I did not recognize European influence on our current style. While most European countries carved in caricature to some degree; it was Sweden that had the most profound and lasting effect.
An article on the history of caricature carving must include some reference to Axel Petersson. Petersson born 1868 is often referred to as the "father" of caricature carving. His figures depicted the lives and everyday activities of the people around him.
Herman Rosell born 1893 carved similar activities, but with a much more refined style than Petersson had ever achieved. While Petersson's carvings gave an insight into the stark realities of life, Rosell added humor and a visual story to his carvings.
Emil Janel was the undisputed master of caricature carving; although he referred to his style as "exaggerated realism". Born in 1896, he was whittling by 1900.
In 1923 Emil immigrated to Canada and eventually settled in Seattle, Washington. Encouraged by a local storekeeper, Emil moved to San Francisco where he could prosper from his carvings. He was to spend the remainder of his life in California.
Carl Johan Trygg born 1887 immigrated to Canada a few years after Janel. Along with his three sons, Carl Olaf, Nils, and Lars; they produced carvings reflecting the humorous side of life. Carl Johan, and Carl Olaf were extremely prolific carvers and produced thousands of figures. Lars produced several and Nils carved a few. Trygg figures are readily available and remain very popular among collectors.
The first recognized American-born caricature carver, who also produced the first caricature carving how-to book was H.S. "Andy" Anderson. Growing up in the American west, Andy carved horses, cowboys, and depictions of life in the west. While his carvings were somewhat less refined than today’s caricatures, his were highly regarded and sought after by movie stars, politicians, and other high society.
This brings us to the present day; the names to be included in history yet to be written are only an educated guess. Harold Enlow is clearly the link between the past and future of caricature carving. Harold has given much of his life to promoting the art of caricature; sharing his skills and love of caricature with thousands of students.