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William Gropper (American, 1897-1977)

Untitled, from The Illustrious Dunderheads, 1942

  • Ink and gouache on paper
  • 15 x 15 1/2 in. (38 1/8 x 39 3/8 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William S. Konecky, 2000-83

Not on view

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William Gropper was a painter, muralist, and cartoonist who expressed his deep commitment to social justice and economic equality through his art. Although he was inspired and influenced by the Old Masters, the subjects of Gropper's work reflect the American reality of the twentieth century. He was a social advocate and a champion for the downtrodden.

Born in 1897 to a poor Jewish family on New York's Lower East Side, Gropper first studied art at the Ferrer School in Greenwich Village, where he was influenced by the social realist painters of the Ashcan school. Gropper went on to study at the New School of Fine and Applied Art and then landed his first job--as a cartoonist for The New York Tribune. Throughout his career, Gropper contributed cartoons and illustrations to many popular publications, including The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Vanity Fair. His cartoons often satirize the rich and powerful.

Gropper once said, "That's my heritage. I'm from the old school, defending the underdog. Maybe because I've been an underdog or still am. I put myself in their position. I feel for the people. I have to face things in the most brutal way that I can and let it out and then feel better. Maybe it's my heredity or maybe it's my way of life. I can't close my eyes and say it is the best of all possible worlds and let it go at that. I become involved."