Ralph Barton

Infobox Person
name = Ralph Barton
image_size =
caption =
birth_date = August 1891
birth_place = Kansas City,
death_date = 19 May 1931
death_place = New York City, New York
education =
occupation = Artist
spouse =
parents =
children =

Ralph Barton (born August 1891, Kansas City, Missouri, died 19 May 1931, New York City, New York)cite web|url = http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0059233/bio|title = biography for Ralph Barton|publisher = IMDB|accessdate= 2008-01-29] 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.cite web|url = http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/abstracts.html|title = Abstracts for Caricature and Cartoon in Twentieth-Century America|publisher = Library of Congress|accessdate=2008-01-29]


300px|thumb|left|1921_Vanity_Fair_caricature;_use_cursor_to_identify_figures

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Barton's first caricature was of Thomas Hart Benton; his last, of Charlie Chaplin. In between he knew everyone and drew everyone in the social and culture 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. cite web|url=http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/caricatures/bartcurt.htm|title = Ralph Barton theater curtain|publisher = National Portrait Gallery|accessdate = 2008-01-29 from the exhibition "Celebrity Caricature in America: Stage Folk"]

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. 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. 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." He finally killed himself in 1931, not long before he would have turned 40.cite web|url=http://www.npg.si.edu/cexh/eye/html/l_barton.htm|title = Ralph Burton: Self-portrait|publisher=National Portrait Gallery|accessdate=2008-01-29 from the exhibition "Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery"] Almost immediately, his reputation dropped from sight; several years after his death, a caricature of George Gershwin sold for a mere $5.

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.

References

Bibliography

*Bruce Kellner. "The Last Dandy: Ralph Barton, American Artist, 1891-1931". Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1991. ISBN 0-6262-0774-X
*John Updike. "Just Looking: Essays on Art", Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1989. ISBN 0-394-57904-6


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