Jenne Magafan


Artist: Jenne Magafan
Title: The River
Medium: Oil
Ground: Panel
Size: 75.6 x 167.6 cm
Year: 1955
Signature: Yes
Request Price

Artist Biography:

Born in Chicago in 1916 to a Greek father and Polish mother, Jenne Magafan and her twin sister, Ethel, were raised in Colorado. The twins studied at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Academy during the 1930s, under Peppino Mangravite, Frank Mechau, and Boardman Robinson. Inseparable, the twins shared the same career, traveled and lived together, and sometimes dressed in matching outfits! Through their mentor, Mechau, Jenne and Ethel quickly became part of a community of muralists, which included Edward Chavez, whom Jenne eventually married.

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.  A blind selection process was used to ensure that the artists, regardless of their gender or economic status, had equal opportunities for the commissions. Murals were completed throughout the country in communities both large and small. Jenne won seven mural commissions, which took her to a number of remote areas, from Anson, Texas, to Helper, Utah. Jenne collaborated with Ethel on some murals, including one located at the Social Security Building Board Room in Washington D.C.

In 1945, the Magafan twins and Edward Chavez, by then married to Jenne, moved to the popular artist colony in Woodstock, New York, enjoying its proximity to New York City. There, Ethel met her husband, artist Bruce Currie. The twins and their husbands worked together, traveled together, and helped each other install their murals. In 1948, Jenne received the Worcester East Middle School commission. In 1951, Ethel Magafan won a Fulbright grant to Greece and Edward Chavez won a Fulbright to Italy. The two artist couples traveled to Italy and Greece for a year, where they studied and created art. Soon after returning from Europe, tragedy occurred: Jenne passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage. The Worcester murals were her last major commission. Meanwhile, Ethel continued to enjoy a successful career until her death in 1993.