Get acquainted with Philip Evergood an artist of ideas.

Artists I Like

Back in 2012 having borrowed a friends scanner, I was on a mission to scan some of my own work and work from various catalogues and other art publications of items that were lesser known, specifically of art by artists I like. Two of the scans were artworks by Philip Evergood (American, 1901–1973) born in NY— Her World from 1948 and Lily and the Sparrows from 1939 both shown below. You can see the evolution of his style over the 10 year period.

Her World from 1948 and Lily and the Sparrows from 1939

To me he seems less like a grafician and seems to have found some form of freedom in the later painting. Two factors could have played an important role here — the first being that simply that as an artist continues their practice with time as one paints regularly and does the work, inevitably their style and art will evolve. The other being that it seems that during the period around 1938 he was struggling financially and down to his last cents, he was a ‘starving artist.’ He met up with an old acquaintance who had recently opened a frame shop in mid-town manhattan and he offered Philip a job. Whilst working at the frame shop, he was introduced to, Joseph Hirshhorn, an art collector and entrepreneur who was already familar with Evergood’s work, he invited him to bring his latest works to his place for a viewing, purchased 10 of the paintings and became a patron. Selling your work for an equitable price means living with less stress, and is certainly freeing.

Getting Acquainted with Philip Evergood’s Work

Following are 2 works that I find particularly interesting, not only for his use of colour but more so the strength of each composition, his placement of the subjects/objects within each painting — the juxtaposition of elements, the simultaneous experience of flatness and depth — that is what attracts me to these works. (For more information on the paintings shown below source links with more info are in the caption.)

Next up are 2 more images, the first image shown here is the artist himself speaking at an event and the second, The Indestructibles held by the Art Institute Chicago:

Artist Phillip Evergood (Source: the Archives of American Artists)
Philip Evergood American, 1901–1973 The Indestructibles, 1946. Art Inst. Chicago

Artist’s Intent

The real heart of his work was in making social protest statements— for the time and place many artists were said to make art in the category of social realism, his works were protest works that covered a broad base of real problems, real social issues that reared their ugly head during his lifetime. His painting was not realism in the sense of an artist painting in the style of “realism” — there is an expressionist feel and abstraction in much of his work, he’s not trying to be a photographer.

When he was interviewed by Forrest Selvig as the conversation turned to intent — Should the artist always make a social statement? He speaks about a variety of artworks that fit the definition.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

PHILIP EVERGOOD: Little Rock, yes.Yes, that was a very violent social statement. Then I did another one called The Hundredth Psalm, of a Negro hanging from a tree with a smoldering fire just going out and the Ku Klux Klanners dancing around playing fiddles. Well, I think that sort of thing is violent social protest statement. But I don’t think that I only devote my life to painting violent social statements like that.

FORREST SELVIG: No, you don’t.

PHILIP EVERGOOD: I think that like in music or like in any interesting art there has to be a relief.You can’t just keep that tempo, that terrific tempo of tragedy or horror always there. There has to be a relief, there has to be a little bit of the scent of roses somewhere, too. Do you see what I mean?

Reflecting Life

He wasn’t the only american artist during that time to do so, but he covered a lot of bases. There was a desire to reflect life, to reflect the struggles and make a positive impact on society. Kendall Taylor in his paper, Philip Evergood and Ideologism in the 1930s, concludes that Evergood has done it all —

Evergood did it all, the titles of his canvases telling the story: Mine Disaster, Lynching Party, American Tragedy, The Memorial Day Massacre, Fascist Company; for him, ideologism was burden and banner. From his late twenties on, he saw himself primarily as an artist of ideas, focusing on the realities of contemporary life, communicating his vision about society’s diminishment, and advocating its enlightenment. He always viewed himself as an artist with an idea specific to each work. Underlying his art was the Zoroastrian premise that the universe is a battleground in which the negative forces of cold and darkness combat the positive forces of heat and light. Within this continuing battle, man, himself composed of both good and evil, is the deciding factor. Each of us must make the choice between life’s forces.

Learn More

Following are links to items referenced in this short article, as well as the best links where you can learn more. So let’s begin with what I consider the most relevant and interesting links :

Philip Evergood Interview with him in 1968, the audio gets cut so read the transcript —

In the next link there is a brief excerpt from New York Times art critic’s review of Evergood’s exhibition at the Whitney in 1960.

Kendall Taylor’s paper, Philip Evergood and Ideologism in the 1930s

Philip Evergood -Showcase Evergood

Art News — Art Fortune — Latest Art News Major Painting by American Artist Philip Evergood is Acquired by VMFA — Articles

Philip Evergood the Artist’s Wiki

A shorter version of this article was originally published on

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About The Author

Amy Adams is a fine artist (MFA Painting — Academia de Arte Vizuale Ion Andreescu) living and working out of Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

She is passionate about the visual arts and music. You can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and her website.