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.
Philip Evergood, whose real name was Philip Blashki, was born in New York City on October 26, 1901. He 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, and then went to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian. He went back to New York in 1926. 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 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). 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.
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, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 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.
Further Reading on Philip Evergood
John I. H. Baur, Philip Evergood (1960), is the only monograph on Evergood. It contains much biographical information and 91 illustrations.
Additional Biography Sources
The Dictionary of Art Grove's Dictionaires Inc., 1996.
Evergood, Philip, Philip Evergood, New York: H. N. Abrams, 1975.
Taylor, Kendall, Philip Evergood: Never Separate From the Heart, Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1987.