during the Depression, people weren’t in the mood for ironic, sophisticated art. Yet at the time of his death, Barton was appearing regularly
in the New Yorker, which was doing well despite the country’s economic
downturn. Perhaps he was the best judge of what had gone wrong in his
life. In his suicide note, he wrote that he understood his problems better
than his close friends imagined. He believed that while suicides often
manufacture their own difficulties, he had few to complain about. Yet
since childhood, he had struggled with melancholia, which prevented
him from getting full value from his life and talent. He tried to fill his
sense of emptiness by running from wife to wife, house to house, country to country, yet always he failed to escape himself. He was simply fed
up with inventing devices to get through twenty-four hours a day.
Today, Ralph Barton holds a prominent place in American culture as
a witness to the Jazz Age who captured the visual burlesque of the era
and for his regular contributions to many of the most important magazines of the early twentieth century.