The discussed period is typified by the high point of caricature as the most topical genre of art because very different artists participated in decisive historical events of that time. The article gives an outline of the major themes, differing individual styles of artists, their means of expression, etc. The term 'caricature' is derived from Italian word caricare, meaning 'to heap', 'to exaggerate'. Its task is to unmask contradictions of social phenomena, relationships, human conduct and character in a peculiar manner. Caricature exaggerates and distorts external features, revealing the inner truth. The article deals with particular examples from periodicals because their quantity and quality significantly increased on the threshold of the 20th century. Thanks to the development of printing industry and spread of liberal ideas, political and satirical publications helped to change the public opinion. As periodicals reached wide audience and had deep influence, critical and satirical imagery served as a potent means of visual propaganda. Besides Latvian caricaturists, German and Russian artists are stressed as well because they had the most influence upon the local authors' formal and thematic choices. The most significant source was the German periodical 'Simplicissimus' - a promoter of democratic opinions and worldwide leader of political satire during the early years of publication (1896-1908/09). In 1897 it was printed in 15 000 copies but by 1904 - in 85 000. The major artists to be mentioned are Thomas Theodor Heine, Rudolf Wilke, Bruno Paul, Ferdinand von Reznicek, Erich Schilling and Olaf Gullbransson. By World War I 'Simplicissimus' held the oppositional stance but then gradually transformed into a conformist, nationalist and chauvinist voice of the official power. Russian government prohibited the import of 'Simplicissimus', still artists had access to it and influences are easy to detect.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.