art in the 21st century

By | December 4, 2016

Art Fitzpatrick '53 Studebaker2005 USPS stamp Art Fitzpatrick

'57 Studebaker Hawk AFUnited States Postal Service: America On The Move postage stamps.

In the general course of aesthetic history, there have been countless attempts to define ideals;  but there are no genuine assertions that proclaim aesthetic progress occurs.

Yet, in the realm of industrial design, and the mediums that inform and define it, there is a genuine technological progress. On that timeline of art and science, there are also recognized masters who share many of the qualifications and characteristics which business expert Bert Schlain summed up as The Indispensable Five I’s:  Imagination, Ingenuity, Initiative, Industry, and Integrity.

Schlain published those timeless words in his 1955 masterwork Big-League Salesmanship. Salesmanship at the highest level was much needed by car manufacturers, especially the independents, during the wavering economy of the 1950’s. The tremendous production capacity of Ford Motor Company, and its willingness to underprice, and potentially eliminate all competitors, resulted in two major car manufacturer reorganizations and consolidations during 1954:  American Motors Corporation; and Studebaker-Packard Corporation.

Before Studebaker merged with Packard, Raymond Loewy Associates designed the 1953 Studebaker Starliner; then in 1955 revised it into the Hawk series, ending their commission with Studebaker-Packard Corporation that year. Subsequently, Art Fitzpatrick, a prolific freelancer from Connecticut who once declined Loewy’s offer to head a European office, was offered the position of  Studebaker Vice President, Director of Design.

But Fitzpatrick, a renowned artistic talent serving multiple car industry leaders, declined the VP offer, remarking that no amount of money would persuade him to live in South Bend, Indiana, the location of Studebaker headquarters.

Decades later, the United States Postal Service commissioned Mr. Fitzpatrick  to illustrate three sets of themed stamps. Shown above is an example from the 2005, and the 2008 America On The Move series (“Fitz”, now 95 years young, shown at top holding his original gouache and acrylic painting.). The third set of the series, released in 2013, was not illustrated by Fitz because he reneged after arguing with the USPS research department over the 2008 illustration of a 1959 Cadillac–specifically, the proper width of white on whitewall tires.

On May 4, 2012, Art Fitzpatrick was a guest speaker at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, School of Illustration. The presentation, which includes a retrospective of his design career, is available for viewing on the school website: Highlight the Video Gallery, Guest Speakers Videos, Illustration. Mr. Fitzpatrick’s official website is

'53 Studebaker Commander ad

In 1953, Studebaker Starliner magazine advertisements emphasized an urbane European theme.

Oftentimes, complex commercial artwork production may be divided by many workers with individual specialized skills such as mechanical drawing, scenery and human figure illustration, color theory and matching, art direction, photography, typography, and copywriting.

When the notable car illustrator Art Fitzpatrick was actively working together with former Disney animator Van Kaufman in 1953, the above advertisement for magazine audiences displayed a style which foretold the Fitzpatrick and Kaufman trademark design.

Colorful themes of worldwide exotica became the definitive hallmark of AF & VK, developed and refined by them while under exclusive contract with Pontiac from 1959-1971. Fitzpatrick specialized in vehicle illustration; Kaufman specialized in scenery and human figure illustration. Both men practiced photography, and their individual collections served as a reference for their artworks. Many of those artworks are identifiable by the illustrators’ initials painted within the scene.

'65 Pontiac Grand Prix ad

In 1965, Pontiac Grand Prix magazine advertisements emphasized an urbane European theme.

The thackerspeed August 2014 archive is reserved mainly for collaborative works by Art Fitzpatrick and his longtime colleague, Van Kaufman. I have also displayed elsewhere two of their illustrations to highlight the thackerspeed introductory section/menu bar; and one illustration to highlight a topic in the November archive.

The sample of collaborative works, all of them Pontiac cars, and commissioned by the General Motors division, originally introduced the model year shown to a broad contemporary audience through the medium of printed magazines. AF & VK  produced hundreds of illustrations for Pontiac’s 1959-1971 Wide-Track advertisement campaign.

Before, with, and after Pontiac, the extent of their talent on advertisements, brochures, and catalogs has made Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman possibly the most recognizable car illustrators of all time… amongst professionals in the graphic arts industry, and amongst the general public.–M.S.T.

Van Kaufman (L); John DeLorean, automotive engineer and General Manager of Pontiac Motor Division, General Motors Corporation, holding illustration of Pontiac GTO hardtop; Art Fitzpatrick; 1968.

1969 Pontiac GTO hardtop illustration for advertising. Produced by Van Kaufman and Art Fitzpatrick.