Ethel Magafan

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Ethel Magafan
Photo of Ethel Magafan at Palisades Reservoir Minidoka Project Idaho.jpg
Ethel Magafan at Palisades Reservoir, Minidoka Project, Idaho
Born August 10, 1916
Chicago, Illinois
Died April 24, 1993 (aged 76)
Woodstock, New York
Nationality American
Education Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Notable work
  • Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1814 (1943)
  • Cotton Pickers (1940)
  • Prairie Fire (1941)
  • The Horse Corral (1942)
Style mural

Ethel Magafan (August 10, 1916 – April 24, 1993) was an American painter and muralist.

Early life[edit]

Ethel Magafan was born in Chicago to Greek parents who had recently immigrated to the U.S. The family soon relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Magafan's artistic training occurred at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center under the tutelage of Peppino Mangravite, Boardman Robinson, and Frank Mechau, who hired Magafan and her twin sister, Jenne, to assist on mural projects. In 1937, as part of the W.P.A., Ethel won the commission to paint a mural in the Post Office in Auburn, Nebraska, making her the youngest recipient of such a commission. It would be the first of seven government-sponsored commissions for the artist.[1]


"Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1814" E. Magafan, 1943

Under President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, several programs were created to employ Americans during the Great Depression. The Magafan twins worked under the New Deal’s Section of Fine Arts, a program that hired thousands of artists to paint murals in public spaces, particularly post offices.[2] Ethel and her twin sister, Jenne, became widely known for their murals painted during the Great Depression. Ethel received her first of seven Government commissions when she was commissioned to produce a painting for the United States post office in Auburn, Nebraska titled Threshing.[3] Other murals commissioned by the US Government hang in the United States Senate Chamber, the Social Security Building and the Recorder Deeds Building in Washington D.C., and in post offices in Wynne, Arkansas titled Cotton Pickers in 1940; Madill, Oklahoma titled Prairie Fire in 1941; and Denver, Colorado titled The Horse Corral in 1942.[4] Her final mural, entitled Grant in the Wilderness, was installed in 1979 in the Chancellorsville Visitor Center at the Fredericksburg National Memorial Military Park in Virginia,[5]

She was a member of the National Academy of Design.[6]


Magafan died April 24, 1993 in Woodstock New York at the age of 76.[5]


  1. ^ "Collections | National Academy Museum". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  2. ^ "Jenne Magafan". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  3. ^ Marlene Park and Gerald E. Markowitz, Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984.
  4. ^ "Browse New Deal projects by State and City". Living New Deal. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Ethel Magafan Passes Away" (Obituary). New York Times. April 29, 1993. 
  6. ^ Opitz, Glenn B, Editor, Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, Apollo Book, Poughkeepsie NY, 1986

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Bureau of Reclamation.