WORK FOR FORTUNE
|SAN FRANCISCO ALBUM, SEPTEMBER 1945|
|WAGES: SQUARING THE VICIOUS CIRCLE, MAY 1943|
|THE MEN WHO MAKE ALUMINIUM 1947|
|LOOMIS, AMATEUR OF THE SCIENCES|
|COVER JULY 1950 (MINING)|
Anton Refregier (1905-1979) came to America from Russia in 1920. He trained at the Rhode Island School of Design 1921-5, and then with Vasilief in Paris, and Hans Hofmann in Munich. He came to public attention first with his work for the Chicago 1933 World's Fair. In that year he also contributed drawings to the radical New Masses. He was subsequently active as a muralist, and became celebrated, even notorious, for his work for the WPA mural for the San Francisco Rincon Centre, on themes from the history of Northern California in 27 panels.
Speaking in 1964, Refregier reflected on his life, "... I spent three months thinking back on what I consider was one of the most wonderful periods of our lives, the 3Os, in spite of the fact that it was wonderful in a peculiar way. After the Wall Street crash, with the great suffering of the people, the people had to be provided for. By the wisdom of one of the greatest Presidents we ever had, Roosevelt, it's common knowledge the WPA, a relief program, was established, for, as Roosevelt, said, it was necessary to protect the skills of the American people. With that point of view, it was soon found that the first people who were starving at that time, of course, were the artists and the people in the arts. So quickly, we were all put to work. The best people came to Washington at that time. Roosevelt was a kind of a magnet that attracted the best minds, which, of course, I cannot say for Washington in postwar period, although I think that Kennedy was that kind of a person, too. He could, if he had lived, probably done a little bit more for the spiritual and cultural life of our people. The wonderful thing about that period, Joe to me-was the human quality, the humanist attitude that we had, and I think it was very definitely the result of discovering that the artist was not apart from the people. " After the War, in the gradual; decline of the New Deal, Refregier devoted much time to teaching, arts administration, and surviving the Macarthy period when his murals at the Rincom Centre were almost destroyed for their Communistic tendencies.
That he was responsible for a FORTUNE cover commenting on the oppressive nature of mining, on the front of the reputed standard bearer of Capitalism, is evidence of the magazine's encouragement of Leftist artists in the post war period (Evergood, Shahn etc) . He died in 1979 working on a mural in Moscow.
Oral history interview with Anton Refregier by Jospeh Trovato, 1964 Nov. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.