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 Maurice Becker  (1889 - 1975)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: mod genre, figure, cartoonist

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Maurice Becker
An example of work by Maurice Becker
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Maurice Becker, painter, political cartoonist and social reformer, was born in 1889 either in Gorky or Niznij Novgorod, in Russia. His family came to the United States in 1892, to New York City. After high school, Becker worked in a clothing factory. He studied with Ash Can School artist Robert Henri in 1908, and exhibited in the famous 1913 Armory Show in New York City when he was only twenty-four years of age.

At the Armory show, Becker showed a drawing of a dog's head, sketched in charcoal on a sheet of newspaper. But he became known for black and white drawings expressing his intense feelings about what he saw as injustices in America, and with the advent of World War I, his strong anti-war position. These drawings appeared in left-wing publications like The Daily Worker, The Masses, Liberator, and New Solidarity.

Becker knew artist John Sloan, who was editor of The Masses, so Sloan published drawings like Becker's "Ammunition" in the June 1914 issue depicting human beings being shot from cannons. His drawing of a wounded soldier in bed being told by a nurse, "Don't be discouraged. The doctor says you'll be back on the firing line in a week," appeared in The Masses in December 1914.

A pacifist belonging to the American Union Against Militarism, Becker was sentenced to twenty-five years at hard labor when the United States entered the War and Becker was drafted and refused to fight. He was released in 1919 when Woodrow Wilson declared an amnesty for conscientious objectors.

Becker was a supporter of Women's Suffrage with drawings like "They Ain't Our Equals Yet!" depicting gross characters of American capitalism. His "Americanizing the Alien," from the January 1920 issue of New Solidarity has Uncle Sam transferring a new brain to a man with the top of his skull hinged back.

Becker lived for a number of years in Mexico where he continued to produce political cartoons while emphasizing his painting. "Florence," a small oil painted in 1932, is a loosely brushed, intense characterization of a young woman wearing a hat.

Maurice Becker died in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1975.

There are extensive bibliographical listings and books of drawings by Maurice Becker online and in the library of Michigan State University, East Lansing at

Art and Politics by Richard Fitzgerald, published in 1973 by Greenwood Press, evaluates the work of Maurice Becker and four other politically oriented artists like K.R. Chamberlain, Robert Minor, John Sloan and Art Young.


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Maurice Becker is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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