In this Posting I am going to consider two Figurative Painters Philip Evergood and George Tooker who had different approaches to figurative Art. Much of Evergood’s work was a social commentary in the Times he lived in whereas Tooker’s images mostly done in Tempera were images akin to the situation that Frank Kafka’s anti hero faced in the Trial.
I will consider Evergood first. John Baur in his Biography of Evergood points out his Idealism in just causes during the period of the Depression and crash in 1929.
” He is above all an Idealist and his allegiance to causes which have won his heart and kept him in the Frying pan or the fire for much of his life”. .
“Sure I am a Social painter Evergood entitled an article he once wrote for the magazine of Art”. .
Commenting on his influences Evergood said El Greco was a big influence on his work.
” I think El Greco impressed me when I saw him in Spain more than anything has ever impressed me. the terrific fluidity of his painting”. .
” The year was 1931 the economic depression was deepening and they almost had no money . None of the Government art projects had yet been started and painters- even those with established reputations were among the first to suffer”. .
If you make the comparison between Evergood’s pictures and Tooker’s Paintings you can see what the artist wanted the viewer to see. Evergood’s pictures are crammed full of people in social situations caused by the depression whereas Tooker’s are desperate forgotten people lost in various government buildings feeling completely desperate and overwhelmed by their situation.
Continuing John Baur’s commentary on Evergood’s social commentary on the situation for Working class people and the oppressed.
” Evergood’s rising awareness of human drama as material for his art also sprang to some extent from his admiration of John Sloan’s work (The Ashcan School artist who painted for the Masses the Magazine of the Socialist party Edited by Max Eastman) . Sloan with characteristic generosity was enthusiastic about the Young Man’s work”. .
” Other emergent elements which were to become important in his later work were his uses of Symbolism, Space and Colour”. .
Like most of the Abstract Expressionists (Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko) Evergood worked for the WPA.
” He worked for the federal arts Project of the WPA until 1937. These were years of his most militant social propaganda in painting and his deepest personal involvement in a variety of liberal and even radical causes which his idealism impelled him to support”. .
” He was President of the artists Union. He took part in movements on behalf of Negro rights and Russian war Relief”..
John Baur continues with his commentary on Evergood pointing out that Evergood used War Themes as well as other socially important issues.
” It was soon followed by a number of other paintings on War themes some of these dealt with the pathos of human suffering as in the boy from Stalingrad more often he attacked war with all the violence he had learned”. .
Matthew Baigell in his Concise History of American Painting and sculpture shows Evergood’s poetic personality which was suppressed .
“The career of Philip Evergood is similar in that his basically poetic personality suppressed during the 1930’s did not fully emerge until the 1940’s”. .
” Through the 1930’s he recorded social and political injustices , the quality of Life led by the underclass and the dreams held by Immigrants of financial and physical security in the United States”. .
Baigell explains the origin and significance of his Mural ‘ the History of Richmond Hill’.
” His mural outlining the history of Richmond Hill originally a working class garden suburb of New York now describes the immigrant vision of Happiness through enlightened social engineering”..
Morgan in her Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists now considers the importance of Philip Evergood.
” Interested in both imaginative reveries and social criticism Evergood produced his most trenchant social commentary in the 1930’s”. 
” Between 1929-1931 in Spain and France even then however his work often featured fanciful elements”. .
Morgan points out that Evergood after his return to the United States from his visits to Spain and France had developed fast lines in an ambiguous space and loosely defined figures floating in a netherworld.
” By the time he had returned he had begun to forge a distinctive style of fast moving line , loosely defined form and insubstantial figures barely anchored in ambiguous spaces”. .
” Evergood’s directly engaged political and social themes after he settled in New York and became active in Left wing politics”. .
Morgan now describes how Philip Evergood worked for the WPA.
” In the 1930’s he worked for the Federal Arts Project , painted socially conscious murals and played a conspicuous role in the American Artists Congress and served as President of the Artists Union “. .
” Reflecting the periods Labour unrest An American Tragedy recreates the violence of a recent confrontation between Chicago Steel workers and the police. Intermittingly in the 1930’s and more consistently in later years Evergood engaged other approaches extending from straight forward description to allegory”. .
This completes my first part exploration into Philip Evergood. I will consider the contribution of George Tooker in Part 2 of my Posting.
- PHILIP EVERGOOD . JOHN BAUR PG. 9
- DITTO. PG.48
- A CONCISE HISTORY OF AMERICAN PAINTING AND SCULPTURE MATTHEW BAIGELL . PG.269
- THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN ART AND ARTISTS ANN LEE MORGAN. PG.148