Gropper, William

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GROPPER, WILLIAM (1897–1977), U.S. cartoonist, painter, and printmaker. New York-born Gropper grew up in poverty on the Lower East Side. This early existence heightened Gropper's sensitivity to social inequality, and indeed he used his art to comment on the human condition. His studies with Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Ferrer School (1912–15) cemented the artist's desire to make art focusing on contemporary life, and by 1917 he regularly contributed incisive cartoons to the New York Tribune. He also created political satire for such left-wing publications as The Liberator, New Masses, and the Yiddish Morning Freiheit in the 1920s. Throughout these years Gropper also painted, but he did not have his first one-person show of oils until 1936. Paintings such as The Senate (1935, Museum of Modern Art) and Hostages (c. 1937, Newark Museum) address similar themes as Gropper's cartoons.

During the Depression, he was employed by the Works Progress Administration, for which he executed several murals, including one for the Department of the Interior in Washington, d.c. During the war he made cartoons, pamphlets, and war bond posters, often with overt anti-Nazi themes, as well as a few paintings expressing his horror at the incoming news of Nazi barbarism. In De Profundis (1943, collection unknown) he presents the Jew of Eastern Europe as the epitome of all human suffering. Gropper's 1948 visit to the ruins of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto made a deep impression on him, and from that year on he made one painting annually in memory of those who died in the Warsaw Ghetto. Gropper also designed stained-glass windows for a Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois (1965–67) and illustrated several books.


A.L. Freundlich, William Gropper: Retrospective (1968); W. Gropper, William Gropper: Fifty Years of Drawing, 19211971 (1971); L. Lozowick, William Gropper (1983).

[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]