A cartoon is a type of two-dimensional illustration, possibly animated. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to (a) a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic artistic style of drawing or painting, (b) an image or series of images intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or (c) a motion picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation. An artist who creates cartoons is called a cartoonist.
The concept originated in the Middle Ages and first described a preparatory drawing for a piece of art, such as a painting, fresco, tapestry, or stained glass window. In the 19th century, it came to refer to humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers, and after the early 20th century, it referred to comic strips and animated films.
A cartoon (from Italian: cartone and Dutch: karton—words describing strong, heavy paper or pasteboard) is a full-size drawing made on sturdy paper as a study or modello for a painting, stained glass or tapestry. Cartoons were typically used in the production of frescoes, to accurately link the component parts of the composition when painted on damp plaster over a series of days (giornate).
Such cartoons often have pinpricks along the outlines of the design so that a bag of soot patted or “pounced” over the cartoon, held against the wall, would leave black dots on the plaster (“pouncing”). Cartoons by painters, such as the Raphael Cartoons in London, and examples by Leonardo da Vinci, are highly prized in their own right. Tapestry cartoons, usually coloured, were followed with the eye by the weavers on the loom.