William Gropper (1897-1977)

William Gropper (1897-1977). Politicos, c.1940. Mixed media on paper measures 17.5 x 21.5 inches; 23.5 x 27.5 inches framed. Signed lower right.

Depicted are two stoic politicians. One stands in profile (foreground), displaying a healthy paunch. The other stands in background, bespectacled, with wild gray hair and a hardened expression. Both men have their hands in their pockets and are silent. The figure in front seems to be experiencing a moment of resentment, defeat, or silent resignation. The figure in back seems hell-bent and intractable. Clearly, a deal is being struck. Excellent condition with no damage or restoration.



New-York born artist William Gropper was a painter and cartoonist who, with caricature style, focused on social concerns, and was actively engaged in support of the organized labor movement throughout his career.  During the 1930s, working as a part of the Federal Arts Project, he produced some of the most gripping social protest works of the Great Depression.  Subjects included industrial strikes and incidents of strike breaking, especially in the coal mining and steel-production centers.  He did much illustration-cartoon work for the New York Tribune newspaper; Vanity Fair magazine, and the politically ‘left-wing’ publication, “New Masses.”Gropper’s painting, Youngstown Strike, has received much attention for its strong, social-realist impact and was apparently prompted by the extended strikes staged in 1936-37 by workers at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, Youngstown, Ohio.  During these years chaos frequently reigned throughout much of the city.  In one incident, following a savage confrontation with police guards by workers and their families, the police tear gassed and shot at the workers; two strikers were killed and twenty-eight injured.  Gropper visited Youngstown during this period, and commented on the incident in an article and a series of descriptive action sketches published in The Nation.

Some of his other pieces focused on the hypocrisy of government figures, especially members of the United States Senate.As a young man, William Gropper was a student of Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Ferrer School from 1912 to 1915.  He did fine-art painting on the side until the early 1920s, and had his first solo exhibition in 1936.  In 1938, he completed a mural for the Department of the Interior in Washington DC.

Birth place: NYC

Death place: Great Neck Estates, NY

Addresses: Croton-on-Hudson, NY; Great Neck Estates, NY in 1976

Profession: Painter, lithographer, cartoonist, illustrator

Studied: NAD, 1913-14; Ferrer School, 1912-15, with Henri and Bellows; New York School Fine & Applied Art, 1915-18 with Giles and Hambidge.

Exhibited: Soc. Indep. Artists, 1924; Corcoran Gal. biennials, 1941-53; PAFA, 1939-48, 1952, 1966; VMFA; AIC; CI; WMAA; NAD; WFNY, 1939; LOC (prize); MMA (AV), 1943 (first prize lithography); John Herron AI, 1943 (first prize lithography); Los Angeles Mus. Art, 1945; ACA Gal., New York; Los Angeles Heritage Gal.; Piccadilly Gal., London, England; Manne Mus., Prague; Univ. of Miama (retrospective traveling show, 1967-68). Awards: Guggenheim fellowship, 1937; Ford Foundation artist-in-residence award, 1966; Tamarind Lithographic fellowship, 1967.

Member: An Am. Group; Audubon Artists; Am. Newspaper Guild; NIAL

Work: MMA; MoMA; WMAA; NMAA; Phillips Mem. Gal., Wash., DC; Mus. Western Art, Moscow, USSR; Nat. Gal., Prague, Czech.; Wadsworth Atheneum; PMG; Newark Mus.; CAM; Walker AC; Univ. Arizona; PAFA; FMA; AIC; Encyclopaedia Britannica; Mus. New Mexico. Collection. Commissions: WPA murals, New Interior Bldg., Washington, DC, U.S. Post Office, Freeport, NY, Northwestern Postal Station, Detroit, MI; murals at Wayne State Univ., Detroit & Schenley Corp.

Comments: WPA muralist, cartoonist, and painter of biting social commentary. After visiting eastern Europe in 1948, he decided to make one painting a year as a memorial to the victims of Warsaw’s Ghetto. Positions: staff artist, New York Tribune, 1919; staff cartoonist, The Post, Morning Freiheit, 1924-; editorial board, New Masses, 1936-(for which he also drew illustrations and cartoons); contributor of cartoons to Vanity Fair. Illustrator, Lidice, 1942; The Crime of Imprisonment, 1945. Publications: author, The Golden Land, 1927; author, Gropper (collection of drawings); author, Caprichios; author, The Little Tailor (portfolio); author, Twelve Etchings(portfolio); author, The Shtetl ( color lithographs).

Sources: WW73; WW47; Baigell, Dictionary; August Freundlich, William Gropper: Retrospective (exh. cat., Univ. of Miami, 1968); P&H Samuels, 198; Falk, Exh. Record Series.