William Victor "Bill" Gropper was an American cartoonist, painter, lithographer, and muralist. A committed radical, Gropper is best known for the political work which he contributed to such left wing publications as The Revolutionary Age, The Liberator, The New Masses, The Worker, and The Morning Freiheit.
Gropper was the eldest of six children. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania and Ukraine. His mother sewed at home. His father was university-educated and fluent in 8 languages, but was unable to find employment in America in a field for which he was suited. This failure of the American economic system to make proper use of his father's talents doubtlessly contributed to William Gropper's lifelong antipathy to capitalism.
In 1915, Gropper showed a portfolio of his work to Frank Parsons, the head of the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. The work so impressed Parsons that Gropper was offered a scholarship to the school. Over the next two years, Gropper gained recognition and awards for his work.
In 1917, Gropper was offered a position on the staff of the New York Tribune, doing drawings for the paper's special Sunday feature articles. At this time, the politically radical Gropper was brought into the orbit of original and innovative artists around the left wing New York monthly, The Masses. After The Masses was banned from the U.S. Mail in 1917, due to its unflinching anti-militarism, Gropper joined artists like Robert Minor, Maurice Becker, Art Young, Lydia Gibson, Hugo Gellert, and Boardman Robinson in contributing to its successor, The Liberator.
Gropper also contributed his art to The Revolutionary Age, a revolutionary socialist weekly edited by Louis C. Fraina and (in later issues) John Reed, a publication which narrowly predated the establishment of the American Communist Party, as well as to The Rebel Worker, a magazine of the Industrial Workers of the World, an anarcho-syndicalist union.
In 1920, Gropper went to Cuba briefly as an oiler on a United Fruit Company freight boat. He left the ship in Cuba and spent some time there observing life and working as a supervisor on a railroad construction detail.
In January 1921, editor Max Eastman formally made Gropper a special contributor and member of the staff of The Liberator.
During the early 1920s, Gropper was a freelance contributor of work to such mainstream magazines as The Bookman (for which he drew caricatures of authors), the liberal magazine The Dial, and Frank Harris' New Pearson's Magazine.
Despite his contributions to a vast array of communist publications, Gropper was never formally a member of the Communist Party USA. In 1927, Gropper went on a tour of Soviet Russia along with the novelists Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. During the second half of the 1930s, Gropper dedicated his art to the efforts to raise popular opposition to fascism in Europe.
The lobby of the Freeport New York Post Office features two murals by Gropper installed in 1938 and titled Air Mail and Suburban Post in Winter. They are included in the listing of the property on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The murals were commissioned under the United States Department of the Treasury's Treasury Relief Art Project, which commissioned art for existing Federal buildings. Gropper was also a Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist.
Due to his involvement with radical politics in the 1920s and 1930s, Gropper was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953. The experience provided inspirational fodder for a series of fifty lithographs entitled the Caprichos.
In 1974, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician.