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Maurice Becker papers, circa 1910-1970

Maurice Becker papers, circa 1910-1970

Becker, Maurice, 1889-1975

Cartoonist

Collection Information

Size: 2.3 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of painter and political cartoonist Maurice Becker measure 2.3 linear feet and date from circa 1910 to 1970. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence; writings; printed material, including radical labor and political periodicals; artwork; and photographs of Becker, his family and friends, and his artwork.

Biographical materials consist of a curriculum vitae and a list of artworks.

Correspondence is primarily with Becker's family, friends, and business associates. There are letters from his wife, Dorothy Baldwin Becker, one letter from friend and artist Elizabeth Lancaster, and a letter from Artists for Victory. One letter from Becker to friend J. B. Neumann contains a draft of Becker's will authorizing Neumann to sell and distribute his paintings upon his death or incapacitation, and a letter of invitation to artists and writers interested in reviving a new Masses style journal. and letters from magazine editors regarding freelance commissions. Also found are letters from magazine editors regarding freelance commission work.

Printed material includes bulletins, clippings and labor newspapers, exhibition announcements and catalogs, periodicals, press releases, and miscellaneous printed material. Periodicals include whole issues of Liberator, The Masses, New Masses, and One Big Union Monthly, where Becker's political cartoons were frequently featured.

Artwork includes paintings, over 800 graphite and pen and ink sketches, watercolors, and prints depicting Becker's figure drawings, caricatures, portrait drawings of men and women, and sketches of animals and landscapes. Many of these sketches were the basis for panels that later appeared in the New York Tribune, The Masses, and Liberator.

Photographs are of Maurice Becker with family and friends, and five photographs of his artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

Painter and political cartoonist Maurice Becker (1889-1975) lived and worked in New York City, New York and Tioga County, Pennsylvania, and was a frequent contributor to contemporary periodicals of the 1910s.

Provenance

Maurice Becker donated his papers in several increments between 1962-1966.

Related Materials

Duplicate magazines, catalogs, and clippings were transferred to the National Portrait Gallery Library in 1977.

Funding

Processing of this collection was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • REEL 96: Originals in Tamiment Library, New York, N.Y.

A Finding Aid to the Maurice Becker Papers in the Archives of American Art
AAA.beckmaur
Biographical/Historical note
Painter and political cartoonist Maurice Becker (1889-1975) lived and worked in New York City, New York and Tioga County, Pennsylvania, and was a frequent contributor to contemporary periodicals of the 1910s.
Becker was born in Nizhni-Novgorod (now Gorky), Russia to Isor and Rose Becker. In 1892, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in the Jewish community of Manhattan's Lower East Side. After graduating from high school, Becker took night classes in bookkeeping and art, studied with Robert Henri and Hugo Boss, and worked days as a sign painter and garment factory worker. He began illustrating for the
New York Tribune
and Scripps newspapers from 1914 to 1915, and contributed artwork to numerous contemporary periodicals in the 1910s, including
Harper's Weekly
,
Saturday Review
, and
Metropolitan
. Becker was also a frequent contributor to more radical political journals, including
The Masses
,
Liberator
, and
One Big Union Monthly
.
In 1918, he married Dorothy Baldwin, who was a registered Socialist. After stating his conscientious objection to World War I, Becker traveled to Mexico to avoid the draft and was arrested upon his return in 1919. After his trial and sentencing, he served 4 months of hard labor before President Wilson's commutation of all objectors to the war. From 1921 to 1923, Becker lived in Mexico working as an illustrator for
El Pulsa de México
, and began to devote himself to painting full time.
After his return to New York City, Becker held a series of one-man shows at the Whitney Studio Club (1924-1928), J.B. Neumann Gallery (1924-1931), and Delphic Studios (1930). Becker was a member of the Society of Independent Artists and the Artists' League of America and remained a pacifist for the rest of his life. He died in 1975.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 6 series.
Series 1: Biographical materials, 1925-1964 (2 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1919-1964 (4 folders; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1920-1960 (2 folders; Box 1)
Series 4: Printed material, circa 1910-1970 (1 linear foot; Box 1, 4, OV 5)
Series 5: Artwork, circa 1910-1965 (1.2 linear feet; Box 1-3, OV 6-8)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1910-1966 (3 folders; Box 3)
Provenance
Maurice Becker donated his papers in several increments between 1962-1966.
Location of Originals
  • REEL 96: Originals in Tamiment Library, New York, N.Y.
Processing Information note
The papers received a preliminary level of processing upon receipt and were microfilmed onto reels 128 and 4909. All previously filmed and unfilmed accessions were merged, fully processed, and described by Judy Ng in 2013 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

Portions of the collection were microfilmed on 35 mm microfilm reels 128 and 4909. While the microfilm is available at the Archives of American Art offices and affliates, and through interlibrary loan, researchers are advised that the microfilm does not reflect the current arrangement of the papers as described in this finding aid, and may also be incomplete.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Maurice Becker papers, circa 1910-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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