Doomed New Yorker Cartoonist Ralph Barton On Living In New York – 1929

Ralph Barton Talks About New York After Living In Paris In The 1920s

Ralph Barton & Germaine Tallieferre

Ralph Barton & his 4th wife Germaine Talleferre photo: Daily News

“New York has ceased to be a city in which people live. It is necessary if one has to have quiet and peace to work to live in the suburbs. Steamships have made Europe a suburb of New York. I like to eat well, drink well and read grown up books, and these are not to be had in America.”

“New York is a crazy city and America is a madhouse. That is why I came back. I feel I belong here. Americans are crazy and I find I am crazy too. Americans are too rich. We have too much money. I have too much money. That is why I’m crazy. An artist ought to be prohibited from earning as much money as I do. Yet if someone suggested cutting my earnings, I’d scream so that you could hear me for three blocks.” – Ralph Barton upon returning to New York in 1929 after being in Paris for two years.

Barton committed suicide, by shooting himself in the head with a .25 caliber automatic pistol at his penthouse apartment, 419 East 57th Street on May 20, 1931. He was only 39-years-old.

Before he killed himself Barton penned his own obit.  He told friends and associates he was melancholy and feared he was going crazy. He had attempted suicide by poison eight months earlier but was saved by a friend.

Barton’s poignant suicide “obit note” was made public:

“Every one who has known me and who hears of this, will have a different hypothesis to offer – to explain why I did it.”

“Practically all the hypotheses will be dramatic and completely wrong. Any sane doctor knows that the reasons for suicide are invariably psycho-pathological and the true suicide manufactures his own difficulties.”

“I have had few real difficulties, I have had, on the contrary, an exceptionally glamorous life—as life goes—-and I have had more than my share of affections and appreciations.

“The most charming, intelligent and important people I have known have liked me—and the list of my enemies is very flattering to me—I  have always had excellent health since my early childhood. I have suffered from a melancholia which for the last five years has begun to show definite symptoms of mania—depressive insanity.”

Barton worked for other magazines besides the New Yorker and illustrated many books during his short life

“It has prevented my getting anything like the full value out of my talent and the last three years has made work a torture to do.”

“It has made it impossible for me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I have run from wife to wife, from house to house and from country to country, in a ridiculous effort to escape from myself. In doing so I am very-much afraid that I have, caused a great deal of unhappiness to those who have loved me.

“In particular, my remorse is bitter over my failure to appreciate my beautiful lost angel—Carlotta, the only woman I ever loved and whom I respect and admire most of all the rest of the human race. She is the one person who could have saved me, had I been savable. She did her best.”

“No one ever had a more devoted  or more understanding wife. I do hope that she will understand what my malady was and will forgive me  a little.”

“No one thing is responsible for this and no one person—except myself. If the gossip insists upon something more definite and thrilling, as a reason, let them choose my pending appointment with my dentist or the fact that I happened to be painfully short of cash at the moment.”

Ralph Barton illustration

“No other single reason is more important or less temporary. After all, one has to choose a moment and the air is always full of reasons at any given moment. I’ve done it because I am fed up with inventing devices for getting through twenty-four hours every day and with bridging over a few months, periodically, with some purely artificial interests, such as a new gal, who unnerves me to the point where I forget my own troubles.”

“I present the remains with my compliments to any medical school that fancies them, or soap can be made of them. In them I haven’t the slightest interest except that I want them to cause us as little bother as possible.

“I kiss my dear children—and Carlotta, Xxx Xxx Xxx”

Carlotta was Barton’s third wife, Carlotta Monterey who was his true love. Carlotta divorced Barton in 1926 to marry playwright Eugene O’Neill. Barton was married four times, all ending in divorce.

During his productive years as an illustrator, Barton was, as he says, “well paid and famous.” His skewering of society was not fully appreciated during his own lifetime. Barton’s sardonic wit and commentary through his cartooning is not well known today. Barton is a forgotten genius and his comments on New York City still resound today.

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