Monday, August 1, 2011

Suicidal Illustrators

By Gilbert Bundy (1911-55)

By Henry Raleigh (1880-1944)

By Pruett Carter (1891-1955)

Committing suicide must seem like a good idea for people at the time they do it. Depending on the circumstances, others find the reasoning sensible or not. I have nothing profound to say about the matter; this post simply notes that a few well-known (in their day) illustrators ended their lives this way.

Wikipedia, my usual go-to for biographical links, seems lacking when it comes to prominent American illustrators of the 1920-60 era. But why read Wikipedia when I can link to David Apatoff who has deep knowledge of illustrators?

Apatoff treats Gilbert Bundy in this post, describing Bundy's harrowing experience during World War 2 that was probably a major factor in his suicide a decade or so later.

In a recent post Apatoff offers a lighthearted take on Henry Raleigh's interest in the bare shoulders of 1920s and early 1930s women in party dresses at fancy occasions. But an earlier post deals with Raleigh's career, touching on his high living when he was one of America's best-paid illustrators and despair when illustration fashions changed during the later 1930s and he ran out of work and money. His solution was to leap from a window.

Charley Parker has a brief take on Pruett Carter here, but doesn't mention the end of the story. For that, read Fred Taraba's new book on illustrators (that I reviewed here). For unclear reasons, Carter shot and killed his wife and son, then shot himself. I find the first two killings inexcusable and the third one justifiable, given what he had just done.

I think that all of this is sad indeed, in part because I greatly enjoyed the art these illustrators made during their successful years. But top-notch illustrators such as these were as human as the rest of us, and life is seldom a smooth journey. Bundy, Raleigh and Carter seem to have seen both higher heights and lower depths than most of the rest of us.


dearieme said...

Ten years ago a friend of ours committed suicide: to our surprise, one of our emotions was anger.

Suzanne Batchelor said...

My great x 2 aunt was the wife of a Pruett Carter. I have the articles about the murder-suicide as well as letters that he, Aunt Teresa, and their son wrote to my grandmother. I would get happy to share any of this that you are interested in.

Donald Pittenger said...

Suzanne -- Interesting. I think one place that might be best to contact is Illustration Magazine, which deals with the history of the field. Its web address is

Then there is the Society of Illustrators at

but I'm not sure if they are interested in unpleasant matters.

Two blogs focusing on illustration are


Illustration Art does not have a means of contacting the blogger (who is well known in illustration circles), but I could supply an email address if he is willing, so contact me via email so that I can try to set something up.

I think some of the above would be a better fit than Art Contrarian.