July 27, 2024–January 26, 2025


William Gropper exhibition ID


With a sharp wit, William Gropper (1897–1977) satirized the absurdities and injustices of American political life. Gropper grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where his mother supported the family by working as a seamstress in a sweatshop. This early experience informed Gropper’s commitment to social change, and in thousands of political cartoons and a long career as a painter, he agitated against the corruption of powerful figures and institutions.

Gropper once referred to the United States Senate as “the best show in the world,” and many of the works on view here depict this political chamber as an arena rich with theater and pageantry. Gropper’s sketches of the Senate began in 1934, while on assignment for the magazine Vanity Fair, and he explored the subject—the investigations, committees, and related cast of characters—throughout his career.

In 1953 the tables turned, and Gropper was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who suspected communist influence in the government. This episode began a difficult period for the artist, yet did not diminish his belief in the American principles of democracy and freedom of expression “where we have the capacity to express with vigor all points of view, and can contribute to the development of a great American art among nations.”



Featured at top right: William Gropper, Committee Chairman (detail), ca. 1945. Oil on canvas. Collection of Craig Gropper © William Gropper, Photo courtesy of Craig Gropper.