Last time I wrote about Lou and Zena Shumsky, authors of the young person's novel First Flight (1962). (She was really the author. Her husband was more of a technical advisor.) This time I would like to write about the illustrator of their book, Ernest Kurt Barth.
Ernest Kurt "Ernie" Barth was born on March 23, 1929, in Rockville Centre, New York, to Ernest and Paula K. (Meeh) Barth. His parents were born in Germany and arrived in America only shortly before his birth. The elder Ernest Barth was a painting contractor but also, as his son remembered, a hobbyist. Ernie Barth was thus well prepared for illustrating a book about boys who build and fly model airplanes.
Ernest K. Barth graduated from Memorial High School in West New York, New Jersey, and served for two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He applied his G.I. Bill benefits to his education in art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1952. I suspect that he also met his future wife at Pratt.
Ernest Barth had a varied career in art. He worked for a firm called Cellomatic in the early days of television animation. In 1954, he served as an assistant to Al Capp (1909-1979) on the syndicated comic strip Li'l Abner. (Frank Frazetta [1928-2010] was another of Capp's assistants at the time.) From 1953 to 1957, Barth created cover art and interior illustrations for science fiction magazines. Afterwards, he expanded into illustrating books for Dell, Harper & Row, and Random House. Later in life, while living and working in Tuxedo Park, New York, he worked as a graphic artist and commercial artist.
Barth's first wife, Eileen Ann Furlong Barth (1931-1986), was also an artist and a teacher of art at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Woodbury, New York. She was the daughter of Raymond H. Furlong, a printer for the New York Times, and Anna (Ungerer) Furlong, a bank clerk. The Barths and their two daughters lived in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, for a year in 1973-1974, where Eileen Barth received her master's degree in fine arts. Eileen Ann Furlong Barth died tragically young of cancer. Her husband remarried. He died on March 28, 2001, in Tuxedo Park. His remains were cremated and the ashes scattered, fittingly, by airplane over Orange County, New York.
One of the reasons that I have wanted to write about Ernest Kurt Barth is to show his artwork in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) has a list--actually two lists--of his credits in those fields. I would like to acknowledge that website and to expand on the available biographical information on him. (Find A Grave has a fuller biography than what I have written here, and so I would also like to acknowledge Von Rothenberger, who posted it, along with a photo of Barth, to that site.) There are two entries on the ISFDb on Barth, one for Ernie Barth, the other for Ernest K. Barth. My hope is that those two entries will be combined and that Barth will receive his full due as an artist.
Ernie Barth's cover for Fantastic, October 1954. He was twenty-five when this picture was published. The cover story was "The Yellow Needle" by Gerald Vance.
|Finally, Barth's illustration for "Forced Move," a short story by Henry Lee, published in Worlds of If, June 1955.|
Text copyright 2021 Terence E. Hanley