“Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Tell your brothers, ‘Do as follows: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan. Then bring your father and your families and return to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat from the fat of the land” (The Book of Genesis, Ch. 45 (verses 17-18)).
In this 1940 painting, whose title Fat of the Land is taken the Book of Genesis, we are shown the dividing line (road) that separates two farms or very different lives in America. On the one hand and to the right, we see green pastures, electric power lines and big comfortable houses, and on the other and to our left, we see a different human life, characterised by want and poverty, with broken houses and barren land. The two lives are so near each other that they seem to be the closest of neighbours, and yet, one probably chooses to completely ignore the other. Despite the seemingly joyous colour palette, the painting still manages to unsettle as we start paying attention to the art’s details: the orderly line of trees and the cattle feeding on one side of the painting are contrasted with the disorder and the family of four thin African-American individuals standing helpless on the other side of the divide. The two neighbours share their common humanity and the same blue skies over their heads, but their life experience is very different. Separated by the “colour”/ status line, that could not have been more pronounced, one side can do nothing but stare blankly as the other one “devours” the promised-to-newcomers “fat of the land”.Continue reading “Philip Evergood: Fat of the Land”