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Ed Wynn and Richard B. Harrison

Ed Wynn and Richard B. Harrison
Artist
Ralph Barton, 14 Aug 1891 - 19 May 1931
Sitter
Ed Wynn, 9 Nov 1886 - 19 Jun 1966
Richard Berry Harrison, 28 Sep 1864 - 14 Mar 1935
Date
c. 1930
Type
Drawing
Medium
Ink wash with black crayon on paper
Dimensions
Sheet: 56.2 x 38.7 cm (22 1/8 x 15 1/4")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9 cm (28 x 22")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.2003.27
Exhibition Label
Born New Orleans, Louisiana
Ralph Barton's drawing, published in the March 21, 1930, issue of the humor magazine Life, paired the renowned comic Ed Wynn with Richard B. Harrison, an African American actor who "spoke with a voice like a cello's." Wynn was appearing in Simple Simon, while Harrison was playing a famous role in The Green Pastures. Captioned "The Perfect Fool and A Perfect Actor," the image contrasted an almost dignified Harrison with the ridiculous Wynn, replete with pinpoint eyes, outsized glasses, multiple chins, and absurd flapping protrusions of hat, hair, collar, and tie. While such drawings exaggerated human anatomy and dress to preposterous extremes, Barton's characterizations were rarely malicious. "It is not the caricaturist's business to be penetrating," he wrote in 1925. "It is his job to put down the figure a man cuts before his fellows in his attempt to conceal the writhings of his soul."
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection