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Ralph Barton Ralph Barton in 1926 Born August 14, 1891(1891-08-14) Kansas City, Missouri Died May 19, 1931(1931-05-19) (aged 39) New York City, New York Occupation Artist Ralph Barton (born August 14, 1891, Kansas City, Missouri, died May 19, 1931, New York City, New York)[1] was an American artist best known for his cartoons and caricatures of actors and other celebrities. Though his work was heavily in demand through the 1920s and is often considered to epitomize the era, his personal life was troubled by mental illness, and he was nearly forgotten soon after his suicide, shortly before his fortieth birthday.[2] This 1921 Vanity Fair caricature by Ralph Barton[3] shows the famous people who, he imagined, left work each day in Hollywood; use cursor to identify individual figures. Barton's first caricature was of Thomas Hart Benton; his last, of Charlie Chaplin.[2] In between he knew everyone and drew everyone in the social and cultural scene of New York. Some of his most famous works were group drawings, and perhaps the most noted was a stage curtain created for a 1922 revue, depicting an "audience" of 139 faces looking back at the real theater-goers. "The effect was electrifying, and the applause was great," said another caricaturist of the era, Aline Fruhauf. [4] He also directed a short film, Camille, described by an IMDB contributor as a "home movie version" of the Dumas novel with a cast of his many actor, artist, and other celebrity friends.[1] This movie was made available as a bonus in a 2003 release of Chaplin's A Woman of Paris. At the height of his popularity, Barton enjoyed not only the acquaintance of the famous, but a solid and impressive income. All of this concealed a terribly unhappy life. He was beset by manic-depressive disorder, and each of his four marriages ended in divorce. (One of his wives was the French composer Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) who was the last surviving member of Les Six.) A self-portrait, painted around 1925 and modeled on an el Greco, shows a drawn and unhappy figure. A year later he wrote, "The human soul would be a hideous object if it were possible to lay it bare." On May 19, 1931, in his east midtown Manhattan penthouse apartment, Barton shot himself through the right temple. He was 39 years old.[5] His suicide note said he had irrevocably "lost the only woman I ever loved" (the actress Carlotta Monterey had divorced Barton in 1926 and married Eugene O'Neill in 1929), and that he feared his worsening manic-depression was approaching insanity.[6] Almost immediately, his reputation dropped from sight; several years after his death, a caricature of George Gershwin sold for a mere $5.[2] Toward the end of the century, his work was included in several exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery. A 1998 conference on cartooning at the Library of Congress also considered his work. Bibliography Bruce Kellner. The Last Dandy: Ralph Barton, American Artist, 1891-1931. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8262-0774-X John Updike. Just Looking: Essays on Art, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1989. ISBN 0-394-57904-6 Contributions to The New Yorker Title Department Volume/Part Date Page(s) Subject(s) La Ville Lumière 1/3 7 March 1925 19 Humorous piece, illustrated. Merry Xmas 13 December 1930 Cover Cover art References ^ a b "biography for Ralph Barton". IMDB. Retrieved 2008-01-29.  ^ a b c "Abstracts for Caricature and Cartoon in Twentieth-Century America". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2008-01-29.  ^ Vanity Fair magazine September 1921, accessed 2009 ^ "Ralph Barton theater curtain". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2008-01-29.  from the exhibition Celebrity Caricature in America: Stage Folk ^ "Ralph Barton: Self-portrait". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2008-01-29.  from the exhibition Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery ^ "Ralph Barton Ends His Life With Pistol". New York Times. May 21, 1931. p. 1 Persondata Name Barton, Ralph Alternative names Short description Date of birth 1891-08-14 Place of birth Kansas City, Missouri Date of death 1931-05-19 Place of death New York City, New York