Great Escape: The Automotive Illustration Of Fitzpatrick & Kaufman


James Kraus, who has authored a piece for Ivy Style on bachelor cuisine, has alerted us to a post from his vintage automotive blog, Auto Universum.

The piece centers around Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, the Matisse and Picasso of automotive illustration. Writes Kraus:

These lush images depicted scenes of glamour and sophistication populated by suave, cosmopolitan and well attired individuals, always accompanied by a larger-than-life Pontiac with shimmering chrome and glistening paintwork.

Indeed, compared to the generic images used to sell luxury car today, Fitzpatrick and Kaufman’s images are grounded in specific and rarefied real-world contexts: political election nights, hotels in Beverly Hills, exclusive enclaves of Manhattan, horse races, country clubs, lakeside cabins, yacht harbors, and fashionable ports of call from Rio and Barbados to Portofino and Monaco for the Grand Prix.

Each plate also has a beautiful woman who’s either admiring the car, or sitting safe and serene inside the enormous Yank tank.

For more on the artists, check out Kraus’ post. And if you can spare a few minutes for daydreaming, scroll through the images at the official site for Art Fitzpatrick and surrender to reveries of Hitchcockian glamor and intrigue. Below is a sampling to get your imagination piqued. — c C m








51 Comments on "Great Escape: The Automotive Illustration Of Fitzpatrick & Kaufman"

  1. These are one of those things you can almost always find mounted at antique stores/used book stores — I have at least a few that I need to hang up.

  2. That ’65 Bonneville wagon “Sailor’s Delight” is cool enough to frame and hang in my cottage in Michigan.

  3. Notice that everyone in the drawings is dressed nicely—even in the lakeside scene, the shorts and shirts are tailored.

    Now some of that is to convey a certain image, one of sophistication and affluence. But unlike today’s ads, there are no no sloppy clothes, no pants hanging off the wearer’s rear, no backwards baseball caps—indeed, no children’s clothes at all. A large part of why the people are dressed nicely is that it reflects how people really dressed at the time. Our ads do the same thing.

    I miss living in a reasonably well-ordered society.

  4. Hah, you should see how everyone’s dressed for the plate entitled “Barbecue.”

  5. The paradise ,if exist, is so.

  6. How can I respond to “Barbecue” if you don’t provide a link?

  7. Christian | June 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm |

    ‘Cuz I ain’t going back to look for it. But if you go through the images on the artist’s site, there’s one called “Barbeque,” and needless to say the guests are a tad better dressed than those you’d find at the average barbeque today.

  8. To view the Barbecue image, go to the At Fitzpatrick website on the 1962 page, then click on or tap the red car.

  9. Thank you, J Kraus!

    The barbecue (no q) party reminded me of this picture.

    Imagine a time when people dressed not for themselves but for others!

  10. Christian | June 10, 2013 at 7:31 pm |

    Yes, but style bloggers who invoke “it’s just good manners to dress up for others” are being disingenuous. Not for a moment do I believe there there’s some selfless deference to propriety. In this day and age, men who dress better than the basic standard of the milieux through which they pass, and then blog or chat about it on the web, are highly self-conscious of being that rara avis, a parrot among the crows. It’s selfish pride, plain and simple (and would there were more of them).

    That said, it certainly is amazing to imagine a time WHEN PEOPLE REALLY DID dress out of respect for occasions and environments. That day was over long before I was born.

  11. I remember these ads, which even as a kid I thought were odd. The buildings were interesting, but who bought Pontiacs AND dressed in those clothes? Nobody I or my family knew. And the artistic interpretations reminded me of the illustrations in True and Argosy magazines and all those lurid novels by L. Ron Hubbard. Looking at these ads so far removed from the Fifties/Sixties reminds me why Americans just don’t do luxury well- always the tinge of aspirational bourgeois conformity. Still, if one enjoys tiki bars, lounge music, and martinis, then dream away…probably in Florida.

  12. My family dressed like the people depicted in these images, as did many others. When we went out to dinner, brunch, church or the country club, we dressed for the occasion. For my dad, my grandfather my uncle and me, that meant a suit or sport coat and a tie. My mother would be in a nice dress with her mink stole.

    Dinner usually involved a swank steakhouse with dim lighting. The other patrons would be similarly well turned out. I would suavely milk a shirley temple while the adults enjoyed martinis, manhattans, gimlets and the occasional French 75.

    We never owned a Pontiac (my dad and his brother were “Oldsmobile Men” and my grandfather drove a Thunderbird) but I am fairly certain several Pontiac owners manned up accordingly.

  13. A.E.W. Mason | June 10, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

    J Kraus,

    My family was the same way, as were so many others. There was an expectation that things must be done properly; and there was actually joy in doing it the right way. These pictures are like flashbacks. Good grief, a “mink stole.” I have one of my mothers which is still in pretty good condition and the furrier is still in business.


    Your reference to Hitchcockian glamor and intrigue hits the nail on the head. The men and women in the pictures (real grownups!) could be extras in “To Catch a Thief” or “Dial ‘M’ for Murder,” or could fit right in as guests at the dinner party in “Rope.”

  14. My father was a 30 year man at GM. He said, cars started the downhill slide when they started adding……..plastic.

  15. The plate is actually entitled “BarBQ” and here’s the best link to that plate and many others:

  16. Love these images. Thanks for sharing.

  17. For All:
    When the things have begun to go bad?
    Was in 70s,in 80s or in 90s?
    Or was a slow descent to hell?
    And in this case,which the worst decade?

    I’m are happy to said that,for the moment,in Italy things are a little better,also in the casual field.

  18. There may be hope for western civilization after all, The League of Inspiring Gentlemen.

    Best quote, ” To declare oneself a gentlemen would be rather ungentlemanly”

  19. Carmello:

    Sartorially, and in many other ways, the seeds of stylistic destruction were sown in the late 1960s. During the early ‘70s, the slow descent became a steep cliff when a general sloppiness crept in; punctuated by the ubiquitousness of baseball and trucker hats, painter’s pants, leisure suits, velour track suits and denim everything.

    Things stabilised briefly in the ‘80s, then the final blow was executed in the early ‘90s when the masses combined the grunge look of thrift-shop castoffs and cargo pants with the baggy oversize tees and extra-long shorts beloved by rappers and hip-hop impresarios.

    Now pitiful pleas like this have unfortunately become a necessity:

    “We recommend attire that is befitting a special occasion restaurant. We strongly request no tank tops, torn jeans, shorts, hats or casual gym wear”

  20. Richard Meyer | June 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

    Yes, Henry, you are right. I grew up in the 50’s and people did either dress like that or aspire to do so. Welcome to the era of slobbism.

  21. Land barges. Much easier on the eyes than today’s land whales (SUVs).

  22. Other things jump out about these drawings. One is the similar slab-like design of the cars (not a criticism of the style of the day; just an observation). Another is the nearly photorealistic style of the cars versus the semi-stylized people and backgrounds—only natural, considering that they are ads for the cars. Also, the cars are gleaming, with objects accurately reflected in their mirror-like finishes.

    How many modern “artists” could draw with this level of technical ability? These drawings might not be considered art, but they have far more artistic value than most of the dreck that passes for art these days.

  23. In a book I once read about the history of advertising, the author stated that the people in these ads looked the way they did–and he was talking about the very type of ads discussed here–because the advertising men who created those ads really did look like that and they really lived that way. They were better looking then average, they dressed nicely, they drove new cars, and they belonged to country clubs and ate in fine restaurants. They were illustrating the world they inhabited.

  24. Have you ever performed a guest blog? Can we do a weblog
    together…I really feel as though you’re a great writer and may teach me.

  25. Vern Trotter | August 23, 2014 at 9:13 am |

    These cars are all Pontiacs. Political correctness would not allow GM to use this name today. Chief Pontiac did not exactly have a noble reputation. Surprised they used his name back in the day.

  26. Vern,

    The car was not named after the chief. It was named after the city.
    The Pontiac Spring and Wagon Works, which became part of GM, was located in Pontiac, Michigan.

  27. Vern Trotter | August 24, 2014 at 8:43 pm |


    Thanks for the input. Because the Cadillac was named after the French founder of Detroit, I assumed the Pontiac was named after the Indian chief. Always risky to assume. I know that for many years,
    the hood ornament was an Indian head.

  28. I saw a part of a 1966 movie called “The Chase” yesterday. Marlon Brando was a town sheriff, Robert Redford was an escaped convict. Many other known actors including Hanoi Jane were in the movie.

    An idiotic movie, but although everyone was dressed like the people in the ads, the behavior of the people rivaled the low life stuff we see today.

    I didn’t see the whole movie, so I won’t comment further.

  29. Isolationist | August 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm |


    Jane Fonda was intelligent enough to oppose the meaningless death of young American men. The only outcome of their death was that today “communist” Vietnam has KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Coca Cola.

  30. Never heard anyone describe Jane as intelligent and from her history I doubt she is. She has made some decent movies long ago.

  31. Hanoi Jane did more than oppose the Vietnam War; she also committed treason by giving aid and comfort to our enemies. This is why she is reviled by many Americans.

    To be clear: opposition to US policy is not, in and of itself, treasonous. It is Jane Fonda’s actions in Vietnam that qualify as treasonous.

    Disclaimer: this is presented as opinion, not legal fact, as Jane Fonda has not been tried for, much less convicted of, treason.

  32. I was thinking recently how we haven’t heard from Henry in a while…

  33. Vern Trotter | August 27, 2014 at 1:16 am |

    Not fond of Fonda.

  34. Kyle McKenna | February 27, 2015 at 9:06 am |

    Glorious images. Even if a tad idealized, what a different world from our own, where portly merkins in sweat pants waddle in and out of their dirty SUVs..

  35. Charlottesville | January 12, 2017 at 11:17 am |

    Thanks for posting this again, Christian. I want to live among those cars, those clothes, those women, and those locations, please. Everything is gorgeous. I know that it is an exaggerated and idealized view, but look at the poorly dressed, inked-up, unshaven louts and pouty, vacuous girls in today’s ads for luxury goods. Compare and contrast. I would rather our aspirational fantasy images looked like the ones above than what I see in current magazines. When people aspired to look like ladies and gentlemen, it spilled over into real life. When we aspire to look like debauched druggies and street people, you get the gutter chic of today. My wife and I are going out to dinner tonight at a nice restaurant, and I expect many of the other patrons will arrive from lovely homes in high-end cars, but I guarantee that I will be the only man there in a suit and tie, or sport coat. Possibly the only one who shaved more recently than 3 days ago.

  36. Vern Trotter writes: “These cars are all Pontiacs. Political correctness would not allow GM to use this name today. Chief Pontiac did not exactly have a noble reputation. Surprised they used his name back in the day.”

    Pontiacs were, technically, not named for the Indian but for the city of Pontiac, MI. The logo/badge with the Indian head motif was gone by the 1960s.

  37. To update this piece a bit; Art Fitzpatrick passed away in November of 2015 at the ripe old age of 96. While working on my article in 2013, I spoke with him numerous times and found him to be a most enjoyable raconteur.

    Regarding the gentleman in the top photo wearing a plaid dinner jacket, Art said he had one just like it back in the day.

    I purchased two prints of his work including the 4th image down from the top above, Manhattan Gallery with its smartly clad patrons and Picassoesque painting on display in the front window.

    As Charlottesville relates, they beautifully recall a bygone era.

  38. All the men in the top illustration seem to have on an odd jacket with their formalwear. This was recently discussed on our Facebook group.

  39. Charlottesville | January 12, 2017 at 11:43 am |

    Thanks for the update, James. Sorry to hear about Mr. Fitzpatrick, but it sounds like he had a long and wonderful life. I know I should not admit it, but I actually have a plaid dinner jacket as well. Unlike the summer version above, mine is black watch with a black grosgrain shawl collar, and I used to wear it occasionally at a winter resort. Not many occasions to wear it anymore, but perhaps it will make an appearance at a Valentine’s Day dinner à deux at home in front of the fire.

  40. Re: Charlottesville

    I can understand your “not many occasions to wear it any more” dilemma. My dinner jacket has been gathering dust for over a decade. No one seems to host dressy events these days.

    When I was young my parents would host formal soirees from time to time. It was fun seeing everyone dressed in their finest attire. In lieu of black tie, some of the men would arrive wearing their medal-bedecked full-dress military uniforms.

  41. Charlottesville | January 12, 2017 at 1:20 pm |

    @James – The be-medaled uniforms are a nice image for the era, and very rare these days, although I met a Marine Corps officer in full-dress at a wedding the summer before last. Quite an impressive rig, and quite an impressive man. A friend in town throws a black-tie party at his home every February, so I get a chance to trot out a dinner suit at least annually. However the last time I was able to wear my cream dinner jacket was on a Caribbean cruise a few years back, and I can’t remember when I last wore the Black Watch version. These days, just seeing a sport coat and tie is cause for celebration. Love your blog, by the way. I have been a regular visitor since Christian first posted this a few years ago.

  42. Re: Charlottesville – Thanks for the hat tip!

  43. You will see these ads, and many more, in the book “All-American Ads of the 60s.” Over 900 pages of them! (The book weighs six pounds.) Much fun and not a slob in any of them. The 50s book is equally good.

  44. The books by Taschen, right?

  45. @ J Kraus: I concur in your timeline of the descent. I’m old enough (just barely) to have seen the whole thing. In the late 60s, my mother dressed us in tiny little jackets and ties when we went to the yacht club for family events. Occasionally we saw hippies on TV or near campus. By the 70s, when I was in grade school and middle school, fashion was going crazy with outrageous polyester disco wear, designer jeans, double-knit polyester leisure suits, jogging suits, painter’s pants, and baseball hats. Indeed there was a brief stabilization in the 1980s that coincided with the Reagan years, but then came the 90s with things like grunge fashion, gangsta-rap wannabes, and heroin chic.

  46. I love the dress memories inspired by this post. Long ago, in the 50s, my parents also threw fine-dress dinner parties, the kind mentioned here, usually for a dozen or so of their friends. But New Years Eve was their grand gala (dark suit, not black tie), with 80-100 invited, coming and going, then coming again, until 50 or 60 remained at midnight to ring in the new year.
    My special time one year came as a 1st-grader, when I played “The Crooked Man” in the elementary school operetta; my mother and grandmother worked for weeks to fashion my tie and tails – the full dress, satin stripes and all – the costume for my little frame. It seemed a waste never to wear the thing again, so when New Years rolled around, I lobbied for the role of butler’s helper at my parents’ bash, standing proudly at the door as the grown ups carefully and politely handed me their wraps. I don’t remember what I did, exactly, with all those coats and furs, but I do remember that brief sweet moment, my first crack at trying to be elegant like the grownups, staring up, up at those fine, well-dressed people, the smell of food, and whiskey and smoke, how firm the men looked, how happy and beautiful their women, how important they all seemed, and I a part of it!
    Today all that remains are the old 8mm, movies a lot of them moved to VCR, then disc, but it’s most fun to get out the old projector, take it for a spin, go along for the ride. It’s all passed now, the people, their dress, the fun they had, the lives they led. We tried to live that way, I and my friends, and some of us gave it a good long effort. Eventually the scenery changed behind us, the years sped by, and here I am, reminiscing, back in the first grade, all dressed up, a six year-old in “bespoke” and all his glory, that shining moment when dress counted, a lot.
    Thanks so much for helping me remember.

  47. Re: John T

    What a fantastic story!

    Your detailed depiction made me feel for a moment that I was actually in attendance at the soirée; smoking a Benson & Hedges and handing you off my topcoat while simultaneously being proffered welcoming Manhattan.

  48. “The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” The Go-Between, LP Hartley

  49. Christian: Yes, the Taschen books.

    Regarding the question asked in 2013, “When did things begin to go bad?”, the answer is “thirty or forty years after you were born.”

  50. Yes my family and friends dressed like this. People also dressed this way to travel on airlines and ships. No this is not a fantasy it really was a more polite world with a sense of dress for occasion and where you were at the time.
    I think modern men are the worst offenders unshaven with their shirts hanging out walking with women that usually are quite nicely dressed….I never could understand that!

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