The Old Print Shop

Anton Refregier


Anton Refregier was a well-known Woodstock artist who immigrated to the United States in 1920. Born in Moscow, Russia, his family moved to Paris when he was a fourteen, where they remained until they settled in New York City. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, returning to New York City in 1925, where he took up work as a commercial artist reproducing paintings for decorative purposes.

During the 1930 and 40s, he painted two murals for the WPA. One of them was painted at the Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn, NY and the other resides in what is today the Rincon Center in San Diego, California. The latter was a highly controversial 27 panel mural depicting the history of California in the Social Realist style. He began painting the mural in 1941 and completed it in 1948 after being interrupted by the US entry into World War II. Due to a mixture of the post-war (Red Scare) atmosphere, and the fact that Refregier chose to depict some of the state’s darker historical moments (such as the anti-Chinese riots and the water front strike of 1934), a motion was put forward to have the mural destroyed even before it was finished. Refregier refused to glamorize history and felt inclined to tell it closer to how it actually was – such as depicting Chinese and black railroad laborers working alongside white workers, an element which had been cropped out of the famous photograph by Andrew J. Russel the day the “golden spike” had been laid to celebrate the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The photograph bears no reference to the Chinese being involved at all. Fortunately, nothing came of the motion and the mural still survives today.

Refregier held a studio in Woodstock, NY, where he began working out of in the late 1920s. He also worked as a teacher in Woodstock. Refregier painted a number of murals in and around New York City in the years following his Californian mural. He died in 1979 while painting a mural at the Moscow Medical Clinic in Russia.