Phillip Evergood 1901 —1973
"The paintings of American artist Philip Evergood (1901-1973),
especially those executed during the 1930s, reveal his concern for social causes;
although realistic, they are also marked by elements of fantasy." Phillip Evergood (nee Philip Blashki)
"Evergood is noted for his deliberately awkward drawing and his spontaneous bold lines. His skillfully organized sophisticated compositions are often humorous, frequently fantastic, and sometimes openly symbolic. His color is never conventional but rather evokes an extremely personal mood that reveals the artist as both militantly social and warmly sensuous."
Philip Evergood has been classified as an expressionist, a social realist, and a surrealist. To some degree, all the labels are appropriate. His work, turning on social causes especially during the 1930s, is marked throughout by strong elements of fantasy and the bizarre. He acknowledged the influence of painters Mathias Grünewald, Pieter Bruegel, Hieronymus Bosch, and El Greco and the graphic work of Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and pre-historic cave paintings. But his art is also closely tied to reality and often deals with actual events, as in the Burial of the Queen of Sheba (1933), which shows Evergood and his wife illegally burying their cat in a backyard. In My Forebears Were Pioneers (1940), Evergood pictures a staunch old woman sitting placidly in her rocking chair before huge, uprooted trees and her picturesque 19th century house. The scene was based on a woman he had encountered while driving in the countryside. In Enigma of the Collective American Soul (1959), Evergood combines the grotesque with social commentary by juxtaposing portraits of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and Churchill with an insipid beauty contest winner, while in a corner of the painting two small boys steal a smoke.
In the 1920s and 1930s the subject of much of his works consisted of Biblical themes with a pointedly skewed style, reminiscent of Cezanne and El Greco, especially because of the fantastic almost mystical spaces in which his work was set. His figures maintained the same large stature as their creator and the colors applied with a strong hand, forming solid intricately designed portions of space. The mood however was always light and alluring. Despite the inherent propagandist political rage in his work, whether intentional or not, his work always embodied a delicate sensibility.
As he became politically involved in his personal life so did the content of his work; by 1935, he created American Scene painting with underlying political messages relating to the general sense of desperation during the Depression. He reverted back to his mystical figurative style following the depression citing his previous political undertones to be too constricting for creative evolution.
Evergood was the son of an unsuccessful Polish painter who had come to America from Australia. After attending boarding schools in England, Blashki graduated from Eton in 1919. He changed his name to Evergood because British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had written that Anglo-Saxons were full of prejudice. When Evergood discovered that he wanted to be an artist, he left Cambridge University to study drawing under Henry Tonks, head of the Slade School of Fine Art, London.
In 1923 Evergood returned to America, where he studied with George Luks at the Art Students League in New York City, In 1923 Evergood went back to New York. He was deeply moved by his first exposure to New York City's poor. In New York, he studied at the Art Students League of New York for a year where his teachers were George Luks and learn etching from Philip Reisman and Harry Sternberg.
He then returned to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian where he studied with both with André Lhote and with Stanley William Hayter; Hayter taught him engraving.
In 1926 he again returned to New York. In 1927 he held his first one-man show in New York and exhibited frequently thereafter. In 1929, Evergood returned to France. In 1931, traveling through Spain, he was impressed by the work of El Greco. That year he also married the dancer Julia Cross. In 1934, Evergood exhibited at the first of many Whitney Annuals.
In America during the 1930s Evergood painted huge murals under the auspices of the Federal Arts Project, such as the Story of Richmond Hill (1936-1937), Public Library branch, Queens, N.Y.) and Cotton from Field to Mill (1938; U.S. Post Office, Jackson, Ga.).
The 30's were difficult times for all artists, including Philip Evergood. A single substantial purchase of many paintings by the reknown collector Joseph Hirshhorn had an immediate impact on financial state as well as his ability to work on important projects. He created American Scene painting with underlying political messages relating to the general sense of desperation during the Depression. Social realism continued to dominate Evergoods work for the rest of his career. "I Flattened Myself Against the Wall, and She Darted Out Like a Bird" shows Evergood at his most droll, parodying the life depicted in Gogol's short story.
During the 1950s Evergood departed from his established "Social Realism" style and concentrated on symbolism, both biblical and mythological. A characteristic work of this period in Evergood's life is The New Lazarus, painted in 1954 and now in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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View synoptic biography below.
I Flattened Myself Against the Wall and She Darted Out Like a Bird
19.5 x 14.5 inches 49.5 x 36.8 cm
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1928, 1939-1963, Salons of America, 1934, PAFA, 1934-66 (gold medal 1949, 1958), AIC 1935 (prize), AIC 1946 (prize), WFNY, 1939, La Pintura Comtemporanea Norte America, 1941, WMA, 1942, AV 1942 (prize), American-British Goodwill Art Exhibition, 1944, Pepsi Cola Art Competition, 1944 (winner), Tate Gallery: London 1946, American Art Exhibition: Moscow, 1959, WMAA 1934-66 (Evergood Retrospective- 1967), Gallery Of Modern Art, Hunington, Hartford Museum, 1967, ASL New York, 1967-68, Smithsonian, 1968, The WPA Art Of New York City Exhibit, Parsons School Of Design, 1977 (posthumous).
In 1936 he moved to Woodstock, NY, and that year he took part in the "219" strike protesting layoffs from the Federal Arts Project. In 1952 he moved to Southbury, CT. He died in Bridgewater, CT on March 11, 1973, killed in a house fire.
Social realist works by Philip Evergood are in 50 major museums including: Allentown Art Museum; Arizona State University Art Museum; Butler Institute of American Art; Chrysler Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Frederick R Weisman Art Museum; Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Hunter Museum of American Art; Jack S Blanton Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; Neuberger Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University; Smith College Museum of Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Arkansas Arts Center; The Baltimore Museum of Art; The Brooklyn Museum of Art; The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art; The Toledo Museum of Art; The University of Arizona Museum of Art; The University of Arizona Museum of Art; The University of Michigan Museum of Art; University of Wyoming Art Museum; Vatican Museum: Picture Gallery; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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