The papers of painter, illustrator, muralist, and political activist William Gropper measure 3.3 linear feet and date from 1916-1983. Almost one-half of the collection consists of printed materials, including full issues of New Masses, Liberator, and Der Hammer, all featuring illustrations by Gropper. Circa 600 letters include those written to Gropper by Frank Crowninshield, Robert Henri, Louis Lozowick, Raphael Soyer, and others. Also found are photographs of Gropper, his family, colleagues, and friends, as well as scattered writings and notes, business records, biographical information, three drawings, and a fabric sample designed by Gropper.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of painter, illustrator, muralist, and political activist William Gropper measure 3.3 linear feet and date from 1916-1983.
Three folders of scattered Biographical Information are found for William Gropper, his wife Sophie and their children. Business Records consist of lists of artwork, price lists, contracts, receipts, and other financial records. Scattered Writings and Notes include mostly writings about Gropper by others, lists of works of art, and miscellaneous writings. Works of Art include three original drawings by Gropper and a sample of fabric designed by Gropper. Circa 600 letters within the papers were written to William Gropper between 1916 and 1977 (bulk, 1970s), although Sophie Gropper's correspondence is also included. Found here are letters from Frank Crowninshield, Robert Henri, Louis Lozowick, Frank Alva Parsons, Raphael Soyer, and others. There are also letters concerning Gropper's participation in the Federal Art Project and from Ben Horowitz of the Heritage Gallery who represented Gropper's artwork.
Almost one-half of the collection consists of Printed Materials, including full issues of New Masses, Liberator, and Der Hammer, all featuring illustrations by Gropper. Also found are auction and exhibition catalogs, clippings, press releases, and printed reproductions of Gropper's artwork.
Photographs are of Gropper, his family, colleagues, friends, family vacations, and works of art.
The collection is arranged into seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, circa 1942-1982 (Box 1; 3 Folders)
Series 2: Business Records, circa 1936-1983 (Box 1; 8 Folders)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-1978 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Works of Art, circa 1940s, 1952, after 1958 (Box 1, OV 4; 2 Folders)
Series 5: Correspondence, circa 1916-1983 (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 6: Printed Material, circa 1919-1983 (Box 1-3, OV 4; 1.4 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographs, after 1937-circa 1980s (Box 3; 0.8 linear feet)
William Gropper was born on December 3rd, 1897 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His family was impoverished and his parents worked in the New York garment factories. To help his family, Gropper took odd jobs throughout New York City. When he was not busy working, Gropper nurtured his artistic talents by drawing cartoons on sidewalks and the sides of buildings.
In 1912, Gropper began formal art education at the Ferrer School in Greenwich Village where he was influenced by the Ashcan School of social realists, particularly artists Robert Henri and George Bellows. After the Ferrer School, Gropper studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts on a scholarship granted by Frank Alvah Parsons. Following his education, Gropper worked simultaneously at the New York Tribune and Rebel Worker as a draftsman and cartoonist respectively. He continued a career as a cartoonist and illustrator for publications such as Vanity Fair, New Masses, The Nation, Freiheit, and various Jewish and Hebrew publications for more than thirty years. Gropper's cartoons typically portrayed the everyday worker and the injustices he suffered.
Gropper, who was also a painter, produced powerful imagery of social protest. His subjects included industrial strikes and the labor wars of the coal mining and steel industries. Additionally, William Gropper received several commissions from the Federal Arts Project, Works Progress Administration to create murals for various public buildings around the country, including one for the United States Department of the Interior building in Washington, D.C. Here, he created Construction of the Dam to represent the combination of labor and technology to construct various dams on the Colorado River. The Guggenheim Foundation awarded a fellowship to Gropper to travel to the impoverished Dust Bowl region. This trip inspired a series of illustrations that appeared in The Nation. Gropper's trips to Russia and Poland also served to inspire his art.
Later in his career, William Gropper exhibited his artwork throughout the United States and the world. Gropper was also one of the originial members of the Artists Equity Association founded in 1947. Gropper's artwork can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, The National Gallery of Art, The Butler Institute of American Art, Princeton University, The Phillips Collection, The William J. Clinton Presidential Library as well as many other museums and universities. William Gropper remained in New York City and the surrounding area with his wife, Sophie until his death in 1977.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview of William Gropper conducted by Bruce Hooton in 1965. The Louis Lozowick papers contain documentation of Lozowick's research and writings for a biography of Gropper.
The Special Collections Research Center at the Syracuse University Library also holds a collection of William Gropper's papers.
The collection was donated by Sophie Gropper, Gropper's widow, in 1984.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
The William Gropper papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.