Research Curator Marjorie Searl speaks about this object.
This is Marjorie Searl speaking about The Opposition by William Gropper:
I challenge you to find one figure in this painting who inspires confidence or admiration…and that challenge may give you a clue about how the artist William Gropper felt about politics. The legislative chamber as Gropper painted it in The Opposition is populated with politicians who are dozing, speechifying, chatting, and generally not doing the business of good government. The artist made a career of satirizing politicians of every stripe. As early as the 1920s, he was submitting satirical illustrations to the left-wing publication The New Masses…in 1935, he offered a highly controversial cartoon of Japanese emperor Hirohito to Vanity Fair magazine, which was published, creating an international incident that had repercussions at the highest diplomatic level. Gropper used his art as a weapon to fight injustice, racism, and discrimination of all kinds, as well to take down pompous people a peg or two. He would have some biting commentary if he were alive in today’s political environment.
Gropper’s pointed perspective was not without consequence for him. In post-World War II America, fear of Communism colored the viewpoints of many public officials… artists, writers and filmmakers were interrogated about their purported radical affiliations, often on the basis of the accusations of others. Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was on a mission to identify communists and communist sympathizers, subpoenaed Gropper to testify. Gropper courageously refused. This led to his being blacklisted and unable to find work, such was the intimidating reach of McCarthy and his colleagues. Like George Grosz, whose painting The Wanderer hangs nearby, William Gropper belongs to a diverse group of artists from many centuries and cultures who have risked personal and professional safety to speak out against repression of any kind. This group includes the Italian painter Veronese who was summoned by the Inquisition, artists who were imprisoned during the years of Nazi tyranny, artists currently in jail around the world for expressing beliefs that are not consistent with governing authorities. In Gropper’s own words, “…the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are mere words without meaning when mouthed by corrupt politicians, the State Department, or intellectuals or artists who stand by in silence while bigotry is at work.”
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