Biographies/Robert Bruce Rogers

Tags: UOPWA United American Artists CIO Ebro Offensive Artist Kansas Lincoln-Washington Battalion Congress of Industrial Organizations Filmmaker Member Of Communist Party United Office and Professional Workers of America

Researcher: Daniel Jang, Stuyvesant '22

Robert Bruce Rogers was born on April 13, 1907, in Girard, Kansas. Girard was a hotbed of socialism, especially as the home of the Appeal to Reason, which became the most circulated socialist newspaper in American history. Rogers’s parents were members of the Socialist community in Girard, where Eugene V. Debs was active from 1907-1909. Rogers’s father Bruce Rogers wrote an introduction to a 1908 biography of Debs distributed by the Appeal to Reason, criticizing what he saw as incessant oppression of the working class.

Rogers became a painter, influenced by Modernist and Impressionist artists such as Frank DuMond and George Bridgman. He later moved to Provincetown, MA during the early 1930s, which is located on the furthest tip of Cape Cod. Provincetown had by that point become attractive to many artists due to the rather cheap costs of acquiring studios, and the incredible geographical surroundings. Rogers himself secured a studio at 447 Commercial Street. He studied under painter Hans Hofmann, who had established an art school in Provincetown in 1934. Rogers produced many landscapes of Provincetown’s seaside views, and the general sights of the town.

Rogers later moved to New York City, with an address at 53 Irving Place, in Gramercy Park near Union Square. He was a member of the Communist Party and the United American Artists CIO union. He was also a member of the UOPWA (United Office and Professional Workers of America), formed in 1937, and an extremely Communist-dominated union. It is likely that through these interactions Rogers developed his opinions on the civil war in Spain, and influenced his decision to eventually go there.

Rogers arrived in Spain on August 24, 1938, quite late in the conflict; he was likely the last American volunteer to see combat. Joining the XV Brigade Lincoln-Washington Battalion, he served during the Republic’s attempted Ebro Offensive. Although prime minister Juan Negrin declared the withdrawal of all international forces on September 21, 1938, his unit still fought afterwards. Rogers was wounded in action on September 23, getting shot in the abdomen. The rest of his time in Spain was spent in hospitals, until the RMS Ausonia took him back to the United States with fifty other American volunteers, arriving by December 20 of that year.

After the war, Rogers continued his art career, eventually becoming interested in experimental filmmaking. He eventually produced Toccata Manhatta (1948), Round Trip in Modern Art (1948), Beethoven Fantasy (1949), and Motion Picture III Rhapsody (1950-51). These were referred as “Cineplastics”, which can only be described as unions of painter and filmmaker, creating a moving painting.

Rogers died on November 5, 1981 in Bishop, CA, near Los Angeles.


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Reynolds, Stephen Marion. “Debs: His Life, Writings and Speeches, with a Department of Appreciations.” Edited by Bruce Rogers. Internet Archive. Girard, Kan., The Appeal to Reason. Accessed June 3, 2022.

Rogers, Robert Bruce. “Cineplastics: The Fine Art of Motion Painting.” The Quarterly of Film Radio and Television 6, no. 4 (1952): 375–87.

“Rogers, Robert Bruce.” SIDBRINT. Universitat de Barcelona. Accessed June 3, 2022.

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Zinman, Gregory. “Between Canvas and Celluloid: Painted Films and Filmed Paintings.” Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ), August 20, 2015.