A Finding Aid to the Maurice Becker Papers in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.beckmaur
Creators:
Becker, Maurice, 1889-1975
Dates:
circa 1910-1970
Languages:
English
The collection is in English.
Physical Description:
2.3 Linear feet
Repository:
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.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
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, a letter from friend and artist Elizabeth Lancaster, and a letter from Artists for Victory. There is also a letter from Becker to his friend J. B. Neumann containing a draft of Becker's will authorizing Neumann to sell and distribute his paintings upon his death or incapacitation; a letter of invitation to artists and writers interested in reviving a new Masses style journal; and letters from magazine editors regarding freelance commissions.
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.

Arrangement
Arrangement
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)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
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.

Administration
Separated Materials
There are scattered Maurice Becker papers found within the Art Young papers at the Tamiment Library in New York. These were loaned to the Archives in 1971 for microfilming on reel 96. These papers are not described in the container inventory of this finding aid but include approximately 20 postcards, catalogs, sketches, photographs, and other printed materials.
Duplicate magazines, catalogs, and clippings were transferred to the National Portrait Gallery Library in 1977.
Existence and Location of Copies
Portions of the collection and material lent for microfilming are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 96, 128 and 4909 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
Processing Information
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.
Author
Judy Ng
Sponsor
Processing of this collection was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Maurice Becker donated his papers in several increments between 1962-1966.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Maurice Becker papers, circa 1910-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
The Maurice Becker papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Prints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Liberator (New York, N.Y.: 1918) Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Politics in art Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New masses Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Masses (New York, N.Y.) Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Caricatures and cartoons -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, American -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cartooning -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cartoonists -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Paintings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists for Victory, Inc Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Neumann, J. B. (Jsrael Ber) Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lancaster, Elizabeth G. (Elizabeth Grieg), 1889- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Becker, Dorothy Baldwin Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/