Looking for the answer to Art Abstracts?? It’s Anton Refregier’s End of the Conference.
On June 26, 1945, the world’s leaders gathered in San Francisco to write a charter for the United Nations, and Russian-born artist Anton Refregier was Fortune magazine’s artist correspondent for the conference. He critiqued and satirized the political infighting and feigned civility that ran rampant. In End of the Conference, Refregier suggests frustrations and resignation with the proceedings as two workers remove the flags that symbolize the spirit of international cooperation. The two men are not posed, nor do they treat the flags with any sense of respect. They are ambivalent to the symbolism and the success of the event and simply want to finish the job they were hired to do. Refregier implies that the flags are simply window dressing: a symbol of fake unification. He intensifies the ironic outcome of the conference by placing this scene in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, a metaphor for America’s post-Isolationist accessibility and a coastal “counterpart to the Statue of Liberty.”
Refregier spent much of his career critiquing racial injustice, social inequality, and the hypocrisy of politics. After a brief apprenticeship in Paris, he immigrated to the United States and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design on scholarship. After graduation, he moved to New York, where he worked for interior decorators, recreating compositions by Francois Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard on the walls of upscale apartments. This experience set the tone for his career as a mural painter during and after the Depression: “Until 1936 and the government sponsorship of art, mural painting consisted of palm trees, nude girls, gold fish, et cetera. It was with the government projects that we had a chance to look at people’s lives, connect up with the great tradition of Giotto, (Jose Clemente) Orozco, (Diego) Rivera, Piero della Francesca,” he said in an interview. Refregier’s participation in the Works Progress Administration’s mural program instilled in him the value of addressing the people, rather than those in power. Thus, in End of the Conference, Refregier seeks to articulate the outcome of the UN charter conference through the eyes of the common man.
This work is currently on display at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art–stop by Tues-Sun. to check it out!
Anton Refregier, American, b. Russia (1905-1979)
End of the Conference, 1945
Oil on canvas, 32 x 15 1/2 inches
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, The University of Oklahoma;
Purchase, U.S. State Department Collection, 1948