William Gillette

William Gillette
In the 1920s, the old humor journal Life, while still filled with stale, outdated jokes, also published many of the artists and writers who were transforming Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. In October 1929, Life engaged Barton as drama critic for the season in a feature called "New York Life." Barton threw himself into the project with his usual passion, producing some of his most fantastic effects and extreme distortions. Lines wiggle and waver with such agitation in these drawings, that they seem to move before your eyes. For William Gillette in Sherlock Holmes, he combines the passive face with the wildest plaid suit in the history of illustration

In this drawing from late in his troubled life, Barton conjured up a personal phantasmagoria one step away from horrific. But his self-awareness, wit, and abstractly elegant style moderated his images, transforming them into insightful comments on his own environment.


William Gillette 18531937
and Betty Starbuck lifedates unknown

Ralph Barton (18911931)
Ink and wash over pencil on paper for Life, December 13, 1929
Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Karl Klein
Image also courtesy of Diana B. Franz


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