William Gropper


William Gropper Biography

William Gropper (1897-1977) was an American painter, illustrator, lithographer, muralist and activist.  One of America’s most prominent Social Realists, Gropper is known for his fiercely political cartoons, paintings and lithographs.

At age 13 Gropper began studying art at the progressive Ferrer School in New York under Robert Henri and George Bellows.

In 1917 Gropper was hired as a cartoonist for the New York Tribune and one of his first assignments was to illustrate an article on the International Workers of the World, a union also called the “Wobblies.”  During that time, Gropper's political illustrations filled the pages in most left-wing publications such as The New Masses, which he helped to establish in 1926. 

Throughout the 1930s, Gropper was employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Treasury’s Relief Art Project to create murals for Federal buildings across America. Gropper was also instrumental in founding the John Reed Club, the Artists Union and the American Artists’ Congress.

In 1936 Gropper had his first one-man show of paintings at ACA Galleries. In 1938 ACA published a significant catalogue of his work.  In 1943 Gropper was sent to Africa by the War Department Art Advisory Committee to document the war.  Following the war, in 1944 Gropper won first prize in lithography at The Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition Artists for Victory. In 1947 as support diminished after the WPA was dissolved, he was among the founding members of the Artists Equity Association.

Although Gropper’s reputation was damaged for a period in fifties, after he was brought before McCarthy’s investigation committee in 1953, his achievements as a great American painter and illustrator were restored by numerous museum exhibitions across America.  In 1968 the Lowe Art Gallery at the University of Miami organized a major traveling retrospective, William Gropper: Retrospective, with an accompanying monograph.

In 1971 ACA organized the traveling exhibition, Gropper: Fifty Years of Drawing: 1921-1971, with an exhibition catalogue.

William Gropper has won numerous awards: Guggenheim Fellowship, Carnegie International, Ford Foundation award for Artists in Residence, Tamarind Fellowship, and in 1968 was elected into the National Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1974 a member of the National Academy of Design.

For more than 80 years ACA Galleries has exhibited William Gropper’s art.  His work is as relevant today as it was in the 1930s.