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American, 1897 - 1977
Throughout his life, William Gropper used his artistic talents to protest social injustice. Born in New York City, he grew up there in poverty and left high school to work as a dishwasher and delivery boy. He eventually began a career in art and was able to study with Robert Henri and George Bellows from 1912 to 1915. He adopted their realistic painting style, and his own work expressed sympathy for common laborers and outrage at society's ills.
Beginning in 1919 Gropper established a reputation as a political cartoonist working for the New York Tribune. His blunt, forceful style attracted the attention of other publications, and he provided illustrations and cartoons for a variety of magazines, from the left-wing New Masses to mainstream Vanity Fair. Like many social realist artists of the 1930s, Gropper supported liberal political causes, depicting subjects such as the plight of migrant laborers and striking factory workers.
Gropper was skilled in lithography and painting as well as cartooning, but did not exhibit his paintings until the 1930s. He also painted several government-sponsored murals.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]