Ethel Magafan
Above the Desert (Colorado)
circa 1950

Buyer Protection Guaranteed


Housed in a custom hand-carved frame; outer dimensions measure 33.75 x 45.5 inches. Image measures 28 x 40 inches.

Estate of the Artist

About the Artist:
Jenne and Ethel Magafan were identical twins, born in Chicago to a Greek immigrant father and a Polish mother. Due to health concerns about their father, the family moved to Colorado, living first in Colorado Springs and then in Denver. He was a proud supporter of their artistic ambitions but died suddenly 1932, a heavy blow to both of them. They attended East High School in Denver, where they found a mentor in their art teacher Helen Perry. She had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago but had later abandoned a career as an artist, making her all the more determined to help the Magafan twins succeed artistically.

While still in high school, the twins impressed artist Frank Mechau, and Helen Perry paid for their lessons with him. He subsequently invited them to apprentice with him at his Redstone studio. In 1936, Jenne won the Carter Memorial Art Scholarship and shared it with her sister so that they both could attend the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs. Once they ran out of money, Mechau, now teaching there, hired them as assistants. Through their involvement at the Academy, the twins entered into careers as muralists, working at first with Mechau and then with Peppino Mangravite.

From 1937 to 1943, Ethel was commissioned to paint her first of seven government sponsored murals. Located in the US Post Office in Auburn, Nebraska, this commission made Ethel (at age 26) the youngest artist in America to receive such an honor. Denver Art Museum director Donald J. Bear once commented that "[Ethel and Jenne's] study of local detail makes them appear as little Bruegels of ranch genre - natural and unforced."

As mural painting commissions diminished, Ethel began to do more easel painting for which she used a palette knife and tempera paints to great effect. After settling in California for five years, the twins permanently relocated to Woodstock, New York in 1945, where the sisters lived apart for the first time. Ethel developed an increasing focus within her work, particularly for horses and abstract landscapes. She met fellow artist Bruce Currie at an artist's party, and the two were married in 1946.

The twins and their husbands went to Greece and Italy for a year when Jenne's husband and Ethel were granted Fulbright Scholarships. Upon their return, Jenne died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage, a loss that Ethel would mourn deeply. With her sister gone, her landscapes became much more abstract, as she sought out the feeling of the scene rather than an exact representation. During the mid-fifties, she began to make annual trips to Colorado. Her stature within the art world was solidified in 1971 when the United States Department of Interior requested that Ethel tour and draw sketches throughout the Western U.S. These sketches were later exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington and then sent on a national tour by the Smithsonian Institution.

Taught: Artist-in-residence, University of Georgia, Athens, 1973; Syracuse University, 1976.

Awards: Fulbright Grant, 1951.

Murals: Washington DC - Senate Chamber, Department of Health Education and Welfare, 1941; Post offices in Auburn, NE, (1938), Wynne, AR (1940), Madill, OK (1941), South Denver Branch, CO (1942).

Exhibitions: Denver Art Museum, 1938-40, 42, 43; "Artists of the West of the Mississippi", 1940, 41 & 45; Metropolitan Museum of Art; National Academy of Design, 1965-78.

Works Held: Denver Art Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; National Museum of American Art; Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS.

©David Cook Galleries, LLC


  • Condition
  • Dimensions
    33.75 in. H x 45.5 in. W x 1.5 in. D
  • Seller Location
    Denver, CO
  • Reference Number
About the Seller

1stdibs seller since 2013

Typical response time: 12 hours

Located in Denver, CO

More from this Seller

Ethel Magafan Jenny Lake, Tetons (Wyoming), 1961
Jenny Lake, Tetons (Wyoming)
Ethel Magafan
Housed in a custom frame, outer dimensions measure 25 x 35 inches. Image size is 20 x 30 inches. About the artist: Jenne and Ethel Magafan were identical twins, born in Chicago to a G...
Ruth Wahl Untitled (Colorado Ruins), mid-
Untitled (Colorado Ruins)
Ruth Wahl
Masonite, Oil Paint
A modernist landscape with ruins of a church in the Colorado mountains. Housed in a custom hardwood frame, outer dimensions measure 28 ¼ x 34 ¼ x 1 ½ inches. Image size is 21 ¾ x 27 ...
Ruth Wahl Untitled (Barn in Winter)
Untitled (Barn in Winter)
Ruth Wahl
Masonite, Oil Paint
Framed dimensions measure 28 ¼ x 34 ¼ x 1 ¼ inches. Image size is 22 x 28 inches. A native of Detroit, Ruth Wahl studied art in England under Pawel Kontny and Wassily Sommer. In addi...
Jon Blanchette Watsonville (California), circa 1955
Watsonville (California)
Jon Blanchette
Oil Paint
Oil on board. Housed in a barn wood frame, outer dimensions measure 20 ¾ x 24 ¾ x 1 ¼ inches. Image size is 16 x 20 inches. Jon Blanchette moved to Southern California in the 1930s an...
Frederick Shane Artists Sketching (California), 1949
Artists Sketching (California)
Frederick Shane
Gouache on paper. Housed in a custom frame measuring 25.5 x 37.5 x 1.5 inches; image dimensions measure 20.25 x 29.75 inches. Frederick Shane: (born 1906 Kansas city, MO, 1990) Studi...
Edward Goldman Untitled (Chicago Riots, 1968), 1968
Untitled (Chicago Riots, 1968)
Edward Goldman
Acrylic Paint
Framed dimensions measure 35.5 x 47.5 inches; image size is 34 x 46 inches. About the Artist: Edward Goldman is an anomaly in comparison to the typical artist's story. With little f...
Charles Partridge Adams Untitled (California landscape)
Untitled (California landscape)
Charles Partridge Adams
Oil Paint
Oil on canvas. Housed in a custom hand-carved gold leaf frame; 13 ½ x 16 ½ x 1 ½ inches. Image size is 9 x 12 inches. Provenance: Maxwell Galleries, San Francisco, CA About the artis...
Robert Wood Estes Park, Colorado, circa 1935
Estes Park, Colorado
Robert Wood
Oil Paint
Oil on canvas. Housed in a vintage frame. Image dimensions measure 28 x 36 inches; framed dimensions measure 34 ½ x 42 ½ x 1 ½ inches. About the Artist: Robert W. Wood was born in S...
Charles Partridge Adams Untitled (River at Sunset, Colorado), circa 1900
Untitled (River at Sunset, Colorado)
Charles Partridge Adams
Housed in a custom frame with all archival materials. Outer dimensions are 12 ½ x 15 ½ x ½ inches. Image measures 7 x 9 ½ inches. Provenance: Estate of Charles Partridge Adams About...
james Butler Untitled (Market Place), circa 1975
Untitled (Market Place)
james Butler
Oil Paint, Canvas
Housed in a custom frame, outer dimensions measure 32 ½ x 44 ½ x 2 ¾ inches. Image size is 24 x 34 inches. A long time resident of New Mexico, James Butler is known for his Cowboy and...
Ernest Lawson Untitled (Landscape), 1935
Untitled (Landscape)
Ernest Lawson
Oil Paint, Board
Housed in a custom hand-carved gold leaf frame, outer dimensions measure 11 ½ x 12 ¼ x 1 ½ inches. Image size is 5 ½ x 6 ½ inches. Ernest Lawson (1873 San Francisco, CA-1939 Miami, F...
Jerry Malzahn Longs Peak (Colorado), 2010
Longs Peak (Colorado)
Jerry Malzahn
Oil Paint
Housed in a custom hand-carved gold leaf frame, outer dimensions measure 21 ½ x 27 ¼ x 3 ¼ inches. Image size is 14 x 20 inches. Provenance: Exhibited at the Boettcher Concert Hall in...