William Gropper (1887–1977) was a remarkably versatile artist, skilled in a variety of media and disciplines including cartooning, painting and lithography. Throughout his life, he remained committed to using art as a vehicle to protest social and political injustice. Gropper’s subjects, which range from political figures to dispossessed farm workers, were rendered in the blunt and graphic terms associated with social realism.
Like many social realist artists of the 1930′s, Gropper became increasingly involved in the liberal and political causes of the time. He had begun to paint privately in 1921, and continued to work in oil throughout the 1930′s. The surfaces of his paintings, like the subjects he portrayed, are coarse and unrefined. Line is used to exaggerate gesture, and bold thick applications of color create striking spatial relationships.
As a muralist, Gropper completed several commissions, including the United States Post Office in Freeport, Long Island (1938) and the Northwestern Postal Station in Detroit (1941).
During Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign of the 1950′s, Gropper was asked to testify before the United States Senate. Despite the resulting adversity, he experienced a renewed popularity during the 1960′s. Before his death in 1977 he had gained recognition with his election to the prestigious National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1968.