National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born New Orleans, Louisiana
The drawings of prolific Kansas City-born caricaturist Ralph Barton, published in the leading magazines of the jazz age, helped define his era. Barton claimed to have drawn so many celebrities that he "must now wait for new subjects to be born." For the early twentieth-century humor magazine Life, Barton reduced the august actress Minnie Maddern Fiske to a vicious old scold. But in fact, at this stage of her career, Fiske was acclaimed as an innovator. With her husband she had managed her own theater in New York City; she had successfully resisted the monopoly of theatrical syndicates; and she had emphasized ensemble acting rather than a star system. As a champion of the works of Henrik Ibsen and his followers, Fiske also helped introduce plays that treated modern problems with psychological depth.