|Birth Date: 1889
|Death Date: August 28, 1975
|Maurice Becker was born in Nizhni- Novgorod, Russia to Jewish parents. In 1892, the family emigrated from Russia to the United States to the Jewish community of the Lower East Side of New York City. Two of his siblings were artists in their own sense, his sister Helen Temiris was a modern dance pioneer and his brother Sam Becker was a sculptor.
Early on, Becker took night classes in art and bookkeeping while working as sign painter. From 1914 on he worked as an artist for and freelanced for various magazines and newspapers like the New York Tribune and Harper’s Weekly.
Becker is best known as an illustrator for radical magazines, most notably for the New York political and artistic magazine The Masses, where he began to contribute to in 1912.
In 1918, Becker married Dorothy Baldwin, an active Socialist, and the same year he became a conscientious objector to America's participation in World War I, fleeing to Mexico to avoid the draft. Upon his return home, he was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor. He served 4 months prior to commutation of his sentence.
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. His work was often made of muted tones of graphite or charcoal, softer in political tone compared to his peers, like Art Young, Fed Eliis, Robert Minor, Hugo Gellert, and William Gropper, that had more hard-edged works.
From 1921 to 1923, Becker lived in Mexico, where he worked as an artist for El Pulsa de Mexico, an English-language magazine. After that, he dedicated himself to painting full-time, nearly ending his career as a political artist. He would occasionally contribute art to publications.
Although his career as a political artist dwindled, Becker remained a political radical throughout his life as a member of the Communist Party USA. In 1932 Becker joined The League of Professional Groups for Foster and Ford, officially endorsing Communist candidate William Z. Foster for President of the United States.
The artist, Maurice Becker, and his wife Dorothy are depicted in this painting riding horses along Park Hill Road in Pennsylvania. After Becker's release from prison, he lived in Pennsylvania for some time. This painting was a gift to his neighbor, who was a young child at the time, in exchange for cutting Becker's grass. The neighbor described Maurice and Dorothy as eccentric people who sometimes wandered their property in the nude.