Philip Evergood was a leading Socialist Realist painter active in New York City. His tendency towards the grotesque, expressed through bright colors and exaggerated forms, also associated his work with Magic Realism. Evergood was actively invested in civil rights for artists, and his work often critiqued larger social structures. He developed commentaries on capitalism and war, and satirized people in positions of power, such as policemen, gangsters, and military figures.
Evergood was born in New York City in 1901. His father was a landscape painter of Australian-Polish descent. Under the influence of his English mother, Evergood was educated abroad at Eton College, and enrolled at Trinity Hall in Cambridge to study English literature. He left to attend the Slade School in London, studying sculpture under Havard Thomas from 1921-1923. During a brief return to the United States he pursued painting at the Art Students League with George Luks and William von Schlegell. In Paris, he spent time in the studio of André Lhote, and became a student of Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian. He also dabbled in engraving under the tutelage of Stanley Hayter, and studied works by El Greco and Goya in Spain.
Upon his return to the United States in 1931, Evergood pursued an active career of teaching and exhibiting paintings. He was highly involved with the Federal Art Project, serving as a manager of easel painting. He received several commissions for murals, and his association with artists Hugo Gellert, William Gropper, and Ben Shahn led him to study and depict working-class people.
His works were exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Salon d’Automne, the Carnegie Institute, the Worcester Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Evergood was a member of the American Artists' Congress and president of the Artists' Union. As a supporter of the Federal Arts Bill, he made a direct appeal to President Theodore Roosevelt and authored the article “Should the Nation Support Its Art?” for the April 1938 issue of Direction.
In 1952 Evergood resettled in Connecticut, and died in the town of Bridgewater in 1973. His enduring appeal was celebrated with a retrospective exhibition from the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1960. Though his later works turned towards allegorical and religious themes, he remained inclined towards incisive social commentary. His works mark a profound engagement with the political turmoil of his day.
Written by Zenobia Grant Wingate