Colorado & Regional Art

The Barrier

The Barrier

Year
1964

Artist
Ethel Magafan (1916–1993, American)

Media
tempera on board

Dimensions
40 x 50 inches

The daughter of a Greek immigrant father and a Polish immigrant mother, Ethel Magafan and her twin sister Jenne, also an artist, were born in Chicago in 1916. They grew up in Colorado and attended Denver’s East High School. After their father died, Ethel and Jenne were mentored by artist Frank Mechau, initially studying at his School of Modern Art in Denver in 1933. They continued instruction with him, Peppino Mangravite and Boardman Robinson at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. They also worked at Mechau’s studio in Redstone, Colorado, assisting him with numerous mural commissions. Ethel became a successful mural painter in her own right in the 1930s and early 1940s, participating in the Depression-era Federal arts programs. Her mural work includes commissions for post offices in Auburn, Nebraska; Wynne, Arkansas; Madill, Oklahoma; and Denver, Colorado as well as for the U.S. Senate Chamber, the Recorder of Deeds Building and—with her sister Jenne—for the Social Security Building (now the Department of Health, Education and Welfare)—all in Washington, D.C. In 1979 Ethel’s mural, Grant in the Wilderness, was installed at the Fredericksburg National Military Park in Virginia. After World War II Arnold Blanch and Doris Lee encouraged Ethel, Jenne and her husband Eduardo Chavez to relocate to the art colony in Woodstock, New York, where they spent the rest of their lives. In 1946 Ethel married Bruce Currie who five years later traveled with her to Greece where she studied and painted on a Fulbright Grant. Although devastated by her sister’s tragic death of a brain aneurism in 1952, she continued to paint. She developed an abstract landscape style whose subject matter was based on her annual summer camping trips in the West, accompanied by her husband and young daughter, Jenne. She was an artist-in-residence at the University of Georgia at Athens (1973) and at Syracuse University (1976). She exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Denver Art Museum, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Los Angeles Museum of Art.

ON VIEW in Bauhaus Gallery 5

Signature
Signed "ETHEL MAGAFAN" lower left corner; also signed and titled verso

Credit Line
Collection Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

Accession Number
2009.1027

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