Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Art of William Gropper

Recently I was asked by Bosco Mckinney ( to create an illustration of the Headless Horseman, or something pertaining to Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Typically when I am beginning a new illustration, along with doing tons of sketching, I usually search the inter web for anything relating to the subject in which I am working on.This usually leads me to finding some decent reference, influences, and often to the discovery of great artists that have somehow remained unknown to me in the past.

My recent search for anything having to do with the Headless Horseman lead me to the art of William Gropper(1877-1977). Below , along with several other of his illustrations , is Gropper's version of the Headless Horseman. Gropper's extreme perspective's, exaggerated figures, dynamic compositions, and radical political statements instantly struck a chord with me. Here again I find myself wondering how I did not come across this artists work at an early time?..

Gropper worked in the US as a cartoonist, painter, lithographer, and muralist. Labeled a radical , Gropper is best known for his political work in which he contributed to left wing publications such as the Revolutionary Age, The Liberator, The New Masses, The Worker, and The Morning Freiheit. Gropper studied under Ash Can school artists Robert Henri and George Bellows , so it comes as no surprise to me that his work is a s good as it is.

During the Great Depression Gropper's work was very influential as it spoke out against social injustice and other issues faced at the time. His illustrations were so powerful that one in which was printed in Vanity Fair in 1935, and depicted Emperor Hirohito , caused a diplomatic incident. This resulted in the Japanese Government demanding an official apology from Gropper. In May 1953 Gropper's attacks on Joseph McCarthy led to him being called before the House of Un- American Activities Committee, in which after pleading the 5th, he was black listed but not imprisoned.

To me his work embodies his radical nature, not only in content but in style as well, and is something I look forward to seeing more of.

Here is some of his work. A lot more can be found online.

William Gropper

Anti War Poster

Construction of a Dam

Top Man

The Headless Horseman

Finn Mac Cool

The Coffee Pot

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