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Western Town (mural study, Helper, Utah Post Office)

ca. 1939-1943 Jenne Magafan Born: Chicago, Illinois 1916 Died: Albany, New York 1952 oil on fiberboard 25 1/2 x 43 1/4 in. (64.8 x 109.9 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the Internal Revenue Service through the General Services Administration 1962.8.44 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 35B

Luce Center Label

Jenne Magafan's mural study proposed a nostalgic view of pioneer life for the post office in Helper, Utah. The figures look like actors in a play representing all the local "types," including the rugged cowboy, a woman in homespun, a merchant, and a strapping blacksmith. During the Depression, Roosevelt's New Deal administration commissioned artists to create uplifting images of hope, community, and patriotism for the walls of post offices across the country. Artists would often talk with the communities before coming up with their subjects. Some chose to focus on industry and a town's future, while others, like Magafan, created murals celebrating local histories. These offered reassuring images of the past to compensate for an uncertain present. While planning their designs, mural painters kept in mind that their work was much different from easel painting. Murals required strong forms that could be read from a distance, and the staged quality of Magafan's composition shows her attention to these demands. Despite barking dogs and dustups, her mural proposal conveys a silence and stillness that underscores the mythic quality of the image.


Animal - dog

Cityscape - town


Figure group

Landscape - Utah - Helper

Occupation - craft - smith

Occupation - other - cowboy

Study - mural study

New Deal - Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture - Utah


paint - oil


About Jenne Magafan

Born: Chicago, Illinois 1916 Died: Albany, New York 1952

More works in the collection by
Jenne Magafan