Cornelia Barns

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Cornelia Barns
Cornelia Baxter Barns

(1888-09-25)September 25, 1888
DiedNovember 4, 1941(1941-11-04) (aged 53)
EducationPhiladelphia Academy of Fine Arts
Years active1910–1941
EmployerOakland Post Enquirer, Sunset Magazine
OrganizationSocialist Party
Known forIllustrations for the Masses, art editor Birth Control Review,
Notable work
Suffrage cartoons, birth control cartoons, socialist cartoons, "My City Oakland" column
Spouse(s)Arthur Selwyn Garbett
Parent(s)Charles Edward Barns & Mabel Balston Barns

Cornelia Baxter Barns (1888–1941) was an American feminist, socialist, and political cartoonist.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Cornelia Barns was born on September 25, 1888 in Flushing, New York,[2] the oldest of three children born to Charles Edward Barns and Mabel Balston Barns. Charles Barns initially entered law school, but then explored the sciences before launching a career as a newspaperman for the New York Herald.[3] While living in New York, he also earned a reputation as author and poet.[3][4][5] By 1910 the family relocated to Philadelphia, where Charles Barns established himself as theater manager,[6] and Cornelia studied art.

New Woman[edit]

As educational opportunities were made more available in the 19th-century, women artists became part of professional enterprises, including founding their own art associations. Artwork made by women was considered to be inferior, and to help overcome that stereotype women became "increasingly vocal and confident" in promoting women's work, and thus became part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer "New Woman".[7] Artists then, "played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplyfying this emerging type through their own lives."[8]


"As They Pass By," cover by Cornelia Barns. The Masses, September 1913.

Cornelia Barns enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1906,[9] where she became a pupil of William Merritt Chase and John Twachtman.[1][10] She has been mentioned as an associate of Robert Henri and his Ashcan school.[11] Her work was honored by receiving two Cresson Traveling Scholarships from the Academy,[1] which permitted her first trip to Europe in 1910,[12] and encouraged another trip abroad in 1913.[13] She exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,[9] and by 1910 was listed as a painter in the American Art Annual.[14] In her mid-twenties she married Arthur S. Garbett, a British music critic working in Philadelphia.[10][11] The couple gave birth to a son in Philadelphia, and is believed to have spent a couple years in New York City.

Max Eastman, recalled the early days in his assigned role as editor of The Masses, during which the following incident took place around 1913.

"Cornelia Barns, an elf-eyed girl with smooth brown hair, turned up with the picture that was brilliantly comic and not like anything else in the world".[15]

Cornelia Barns' artistic style relied on heavy crayon lines and a distinctive comic style in her portrayals of pretentiousness, social privilege, male dominance, and childhood innocence.

In another work Max Eastman wrote,

"[T]he drawings of Art Young and Cornelia Barns and William Gropper were of their own intrinsic nature comic. Captions here were unnecessary, or were at least a supplemental element––often, in fact, supplied by the editors in the office."[16]

"American Salon of Humorists" was a 1915 exhibit held in New York City at the Folsom Galleries. It was organized by Louis Baury,[17] and Cornelia Barns was one the twenty-three featured artists.[18] She may have been a relative newcomer to the art scene of New York, but she was rising rapidly.

Suffrage and socialism: the New York City years[edit]

Cartoon by Cornelia Barns. "United We Stand: Anti- Suffrage Meeting," November 1914. Published in The Masses.
Cover of Birth Control Review February–March 1918 with cartoon image by Cornelia Barns, "The New Voter at Work."

From 1913 to 1917 Barns was a frequent contributor to The Masses, a socialist magazine that attracted a highly talented group of writers and artists. For three years, Barns served on its editorial board. As art historian Rebecca Zurier commented,

"The closest thing to a feminist statement by a woman Masses editor appears in the cartoons of Cornelia Barns, who refrained from any serious social analysis."[1]

When publication of The Masses was suspending following government charges, a new magazine, The Liberator was founded by Max Eastman and Crystal Eastman. In the February 10, 1918 issue of the New York Call, Cornelia was announced as a contributing editor to The Liberator, along with fellow cartoonist/illustrators Robert Minor, Boardman Robinson and Art Young.[19] In 1925 the New Masses was announced as "A new radical magazine of arts and letters, without political affiliations or obligations but with sympathy and allegiance unqualifiedly with the international labor movement. . ."[20] Once again, Cornelia Barns was listed as a contributing editor.[20]

Within socialist periodicals, many cartoons by Cornelia Barns pertained to the topic of women's suffrage and gender equality. As might be expected, she also published cartoons in the suffrage magazines including New York City's Woman Voter and the National Woman's Party's Suffragist.[2] "One Man--One Vote"[21] depicted two immigrant women with young children, juxtaposed with the stare from a male dandy in three-piece suit and walking stick. Her cover, "Waiting," published in The Suffragist in 1919[22] is a powerful portrayal of an unending mass of strong-bodied women, two with babies in their arms, holding a lighted torch while waiting for political recognition through suffrage.

In 1918, in its second year of publication, Cornelia Barns and Lou Rogers were listed as art editors for Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Review.[2] Her earliest contribution was "We Accuse Society."[23]


In 1920 Cornelia Barns moved to California with her husband, Arthur Selwyn Garbett,[1] and their young son. They settled on a ranch near her parents, who had moved to Morgan Hill, several years earlier.[24] Seeking job opportunities, the Garbetts next moved to Berkeley. Garbett became a radio station program director,[11] later offering his own radio program.[25] He also served as music critic for a San Francisco newspaper.[11] Cornelia Barns turned mostly to illustration, and provided sketches and covers for Sunset magazine by 1921.[26] She contributed a feature column for Oakland Tribune, "My City Oakland". Garbett and Barns retired to Los Gatos, California,[11] shortly before Cornelia's death from tuberculosis in November 1941.[27] It was speculated that years of using etching acids on zinc plates[28] in poorly ventilated studios had damaged her lungs. Others have noted that her paternal grandmother and grand aunt both succumbed to the disease.[29] Following a flood in the family dwelling, few of her original artworks survive.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e Zurier, Rebecca (1988). Art for the Masses. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. p. 216. ISBN 0877225133.
  2. ^ a b c Sheppard, Alice (1994). Cartooning for Suffrage. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  3. ^ a b Sawyers, Eugene T (1922). History of Santa Clara County, California. Historic Record Co. p. 1111.
  4. ^ "Charles E Barnes, Flushing, 02, Queens, New York". New York, State Census, 1892. FamilySearch. Retrieved 26 Jan 2013.
  5. ^ "1900; Census Place: Queens Ward 3, Queens, New York;". 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Retrieved 26 Jan 2013.
  6. ^ Philadelphia Ward 46, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
  7. ^ Laura R. Prieto. At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America. Harvard University Press; 2001. ISBN 978-0-674-00486-3. pp. 145–146.
  8. ^ Laura R. Prieto. At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America. Harvard University Press; 2001. ISBN 978-0-674-00486-3. p. 160–161.
  9. ^ a b Petteys, Chris (1985). Dictionary of Women Artists: An International Dictionary of Women Artists Born before 1900. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall. p. 45.
  10. ^ a b c "Cornelia Baxter Barns (1888 - 1941)". AskArt. Retrieved 17 Jan 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e Hanley, Terence E. "Arthur Selwyn Garbett (1883-1955)". Tellers of Weird Tales. Retrieved 26 Jan 2013.
  12. ^ "Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945 [database on-line]". Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1883-1945. Retrieved 28 Jan 2013.
  13. ^ "1913; Arrival; Microfilm Serial: T715; Microfilm Roll:". New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Retrieved 27 Jan 2013.
  14. ^ American Art Annual. New York: American Art Annual. 1910. p. 91.
  15. ^ Eastman, Max (1948). Enjoyment of Living. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 407.
  16. ^ Eastman, Max (1936). Enjoyment of Laughter. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 72.
  17. ^ Baury, Louis (June 1915). "Wanted: An American Salon of Humorists". The Bookman: 5250540. Retrieved 27 Jan 2013.
  18. ^ "Humor has its First Salon". Washington Herold. 6 June 1915.
  19. ^ "The Liberator is Now on Sale". New York Call. 10 Feb 1918.
  20. ^ a b "Radical Magazine Backed By $1,500,000". The New York Times. 8 Dec 1925. Retrieved 26 Jan 2013.
  21. ^ Barns, Cornelia (April 1914). "One Man--One Vote". Woman Voter: 10.
  22. ^ Barns, Cornelia (May 17, 1919). "Waiting". The Suffragist. 7 (19).
  23. ^ Barns, Cornelia (December 1917). "We Accuse Society". Birth Control Review. 1: 5.
  24. ^ Jose, Donna (13 July 1920). "Of Interest to Women, Society". San Jose Evening News. Retrieved 27 Jan 2013.
  25. ^ "Daily Radio Programs: Arthur Garbett, talk, Musical Program". Niagara Falls Gazette. 9 Jul 1926.
  26. ^ "The Magazines: Sunset". Oakland Tribune. 29 May 1921.
  27. ^ "California, Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]". Retrieved 21 Jan 2013.
  28. ^ Green, Cedric. "Bordeaux Etch". Retrieved 27 Jan 2013.
  29. ^ Fulton, Antoinette M. (15 Apr 1954). "Honeymoon Home Built Century Ago By David Wells is New Bus Station". Burlington Free Press.

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