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 Anton L. Refregier  (1905 - 1979)

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Lived/Active: California / Russian Federation      Known for: abstraction, surreal genre, mural

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"The Park Bench"-signature only
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Anton Refregier was born March 20, 1905 in Moscow, Russia.  He immigrated to the United States in 1920.  He received his artistic training from the Rhode Island School of Design*, Providence, Rhode Island, 1921-1925; studied abroad with the sculptor Nicolai Vassilief in Paris in 1920; and with Hans Hofmann in Munich, 1927.

From 1934 to 1940, Refregier, living in New York City, worked on various WPA Federal Art Projects* as a teacher, supervising artist, and mural supervisor.  His most famous work is arguably the mural project at San Francisco's Rincon Center, the costliest and one of the most controversial of all the WPA commissions.  It is a multi-scene panorama* that sparked national debate because of its inclusion of controversial events in California history.

Refregier found inspiration in tragic events, which is reflected in his Depression Era-WPA work.  He was quoted as saying that "the richer we [were] in possessions, the poorer we became in their enjoyment." [2]  He said the amazing part of that period was the "human quality, the humanist attitude that [everyone] had" and the discovery that "the artist was not apart from the people."[2]

Aside from his mural work, Anton Refregier was an easel painter, decorator, set designer, author, and teacher (professor of painting, Bard College, Annandale-on-the-Hudson, NY, 1962-64).  He also was a faculty member of the American Artists School*, a progressive and socialist oriented school in New York City.

Refregier died in Moscow in October 1979.

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*For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary at

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Moscow, Russia on March 20, 1905, Anton Refregier studied in Munich with Hans Hofmann.  After coming to the U.S. in 1920, he continued at the Rhode Island School of Design.

While based in Woodstock, NY, he painted murals across the U.S. in schools, penitentiaries, and other public buildings.  He won the national competition to paint murals in the Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco.  Covering 2,400 square feet, the murals depict the history of San Francisco.  Due to their Socialist theme, the murals were quite controversial when begun in 1941 and were not finished until 1947.

Refregier died in Moscow in October 1979.

Decora Gallery (NYC), 1931; American Artists Congress (LA), 1938; CPLH, 1948; SFAA, 1948; Fraymart Gallery (LA), 1948.

In: MOMA (NYC); University of Arizona; MM; Mayo Clinic; Matson liner, Lurline.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in American Art 1936-70; SF Chronicle, 11-15-1942; Preservation News, Dec. 1979 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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