Ethel Magafan – Artist Bio


Colorado/New York, Abstract Mountain Landscape and Mural Painting

Ethel Magafan and her twin sister, Jenne Magafan, were highly respected artists. They had a successful painting career in the Midwest in the 1930s and 1940s, especially of works of western themes in Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals.

The twins’ father emigrated to the United States from Greece in 1912 and settled in Colorado Springs, the girls were born in Chicago. They each developed a love of western landscape, and when Jenne won the Carter Memorial Art Scholarship, she shared it with her sister and they both attended the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. The tuition covered only two months, but instructor Frank Mechau, recognizing their talent, hired both of them as assistants.

The young female artists were encouraged by their instructors including Mechau, Boardman Robinson and Pepino Mangravite, who hired Ethel to help him with a mural project in Atlantic City. Jenne did a mural in the post office in Helper, Utah and in a government building in Auburn, Nebraska.

On a Californai trip, the twins met Doris Lee and Arnold Blanch, who spoke glowingly of the Woodstock, New York art colony, so they headed east in 1945. There they each married artists, Jenne married Edward Chavez and Ethel, Bruce Currie. At Woodstock, they developed distinctive styles of painting with Jenne doing what were described as sensitive renderings and Ethel focusing on horses and later on increasingly abstract landscapes.

Both won Fullbright Scholarships and Tiffany Foundation Awards, and Jenne studied in Italy and Ethel in Greece. They and their husbands returned to the United States in 1952, and shortly after Jenne died at age thirty-six of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Ethel continued to have a highly successful career, painting numerous murals for the federal government including the U.S. Senate Chamber. In 1968, she was elected an Academician of the National Academy of Design.