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

  • Jenne Magafan, Western Town (mural study, Helper, Utah Post Office), ca. 1939-1943, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the Internal Revenue Service through the General Services Administration , 1962.8.44

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.

Title
Western Town (mural study, Helper, Utah Post Office)
Artist
Date
ca. 1939-1943
Location
Dimensions
25 1/2 x 43 1/4 in. (64.8 x 109.9 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the Internal Revenue Service through the General Services Administration

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on fiberboard
Classifications
Keywords
  • Occupation – craft – smith
  • Occupation – other – cowboy
  • Cityscape – town
  • Study – mural study
  • Animal – dog
  • Landscape – Utah – Helper
  • Figure group
Object Number
1962.8.44
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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