1: Painting, William Gropper’s "Youngstown Strike," 1937.
William Gropper (1897-1977) was a cartoonist, painter, lithographer, and muralist as well as a contributor of political writing to many left-leaning publications. He was born in New York City to immigrant parents who were employed in low-wage positions in the garment industry. His painting Youngstown Strike is a depiction of workers striking at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1916. The painting was likely prompted by the Youngstown strike of 1937, during which there were violent confrontations between workers and the police. Gropper visited Youngstown during these later strikes, and they made a significant impression on him. The painting depicts workers, both men and women, protesting labor conditions at great personal risk. The artist aligns himself with the workers, depicting their shock and outrage at the anti-labor violence. You may wish to direct your students to this commentary on the painting by art historian Howard E. Wooden, from which the information in this paragraph was drawn.
Suggested Activity: Have your students look at the painting and discuss the following questions: What emotions does Gropper capture in the painting and how does he portray them? Why are worker strikes of interest to social realist artists? Why might they have been of particular interest to Jewish artists of the time? How does Gropper demonstrate sympathy for the workers?
Source: William Gropper, Youngstown Strike, 1937. Museum Purchase 1985. Collection, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio. Copyright Gene Gropper.