About the Artist
There are a couple of marvellous class photos of the NGV School of Art students taken in 1892. Fred McCubbin and Bernard “Barney” Hall are in the middle, surrounded by about 70 students. Harley Griffiths and George Bell stand apart. Leslie Wilkie, Max Meldrum and Ambrose Patterson are standing with Myer Blashki at the back. Hugh Ramsay is there, Rupert Bunny, James Quinn and Victor Cobb. The women at the front, included Rose McPherson, who became Margaret Preston, Dora Meeson who married George Coates, Alice Bale, Jo Sweatman, Bessie Norris, Agnes Kirkwood, and Dora and Elsie Hake.
In 1941, Jo Sweatman was shown one of the photos and was moved to write a piece for The Argus Women’s Magazine. What had happened to them all in over 40 years? The affection for “Mr and Mrs Mac” was still strong, as she recalled the Sunday evening soirees at their Brighton home, where he sang The Erl King in his fine tenor voice. In the photo “there was also lanky Ambrose Patterson and handsome, energetic Myer Blashki. The former brought a pre-modernist exhibition back many years ago, and the latter returned as Miles Evergood, that delightful colourist.”
Miles’ capacity to make and keep friends stood him in good stead. In New York he was a member of both the Lotos and the Salmagundi Clubs. There he found mentors and fellow artists happy to have him join them. He was in another group photo at a Salmagundi Club dinner in 1910. His artist associates also present included Albert Groll, Chester Loomis, Howard Hildebrand, Gifford Beale who was the guest of honour, Charles Hawthorne, Frank Rehn, Paul King and Lewis Cohen. Salmagundi dinners were a popular way to give honour to artists and art patrons, with an opportunity to mix and greet and share the news in the art world. This dinner was given by art patron Samuel T. Shaw.
Miles left America in 1910 and lived in England until 1922. He joined the New English Arts Club where other members included Walter Sickert, Augustus John, John Lavery, John Singer Sargeant and C. R. W. Nevinson. Having been with them, at their shows and in their studios, there is an added element in his later criticism of the buying policies of Australian galleries. He saw what poor works of some of these artists had been bought because that was all the galleries could afford. It was a natural observation that many better works of local artists could have been purchased for less money. But his observations were not well received.
His kind sister, Minnie, was married to the uncle of John Monash, so the relationship when, as Myer, he became a member of the Victorian Mounted Rifles, was not as a stranger. When in London as Miles, he met Louise Rosenhain, Monash’s sister, there was clearly a familiarity enough for Miles to offer to make a portrait of him. The offer was not accepted. However, about 1918, Miles did make a striking portrait in uniform of his soldier nephew, Bertie Blashki. That is in possession of Bertie’s son, Ken Blashki. Blashkis who served with Miles in the First World War included Minnie’s son, Oscar Behrend and Aaron’s sons, Roy and Eric Blashki. Roy was killed in action in Belgium and Eric was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery.
On his return to Melbourne in 1935, Miles was welcomed by his old art school friends including George Bell, Rupert Bunny and James Quinn. Quinn and Miles had met overseas in 1922. They had all been to Europe and had seen the Impressionists so Miles’ work was not as foreign to them as it was to most of the critics and galleries. With similar life histories in art, they spoke each other’s language. It was George Bell who was most loyal, opening both the memorial retrospective exhibitions after Miles’ death, and writing of him with insight and with feeling.