Finding a new piece of art and artist’s work gives quite a coloration to the trip out West I’m on. Above, you will see a picture taken of a mural that hung in host’s uncle’s collection, taken when it was discarded, from a classroom in Lincoln High School in Portland, OR.
The mural is a copy of one that William Gropper did on legends and folk tales. Gropper was a firm adherent to belief in value of people’s work, and of sympathetic representation of working class life. Looking at his entry in ‘Wikipedia’, I was amused to find that appreciation of the value of work is styled as ‘radical’, among other depictions of work as left wing.
Gropper was able to attend art classes by being discovered by fellow folk artists, and illustrated The Liberator among other left wing papers. His work was integral to political groups that promoted the value of working classes, leading to the prosperity of recent decades when labor was rewarded with living wages and benefits.
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.
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.
Following World War II, Gropper traveled to Poland to attend the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace of 1948 in Wrocław. Afterwards, he decided to pay tribute to the Jews who died in the Holocaust by painting one picture on the theme of Jewish life each year.
The early life of the artist in New York brought him in contact with working people, and included many hard times of his own.
Gropper depicted working classes in a positive way, and his association with labor from his own family and life gave him very personal regard for its values, as well as its value to us all.
(Photo courtesy of americanartmuseum photostream at flickr.com.)