Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fitz and Van

Many of the car ads that appeared in the magazines and car brochures in the 1960s were gouache paintings done by a duo named Fitz and Van.

“Fitz,” was short for Art Fitzpatrick. He painted the cars, while “Van,” or Van Kaufman, did the people and backgrounds.

An article authored by Arthur St. Antoine, Editor at Large, Motor Trend has some interesting technical notes. For example:

"To produce his famous “wide” look, Fitzpatrick traced photos of the new car, cut the tracings into pieces, then ‘stretched’ the car into bolder proportions.

‘We wanted pictures that were different,’ Fitzpatrick says. ‘Impact is the name of the game, so we went with predominately front views—even cropping the cars so they looked too big for the page.’

The two artists would then trade the image back and forth, Kaufman (who passed away in 1995) adding the people and the backdrops (often featuring such exotic locales as Monte Carlo, Corfu, and Acapulco), Fitzpatrick painting the car and tying it all together with the color and reflections of the scene.’

Fitzpatrick said: ‘I’ve always maintained that a picture of a car moving doesn’t mean a thing. They all move. You have to convey something about the car psychologically. It’s all about image. That’s the reason people buy cars.’
Motor Trend article about the collaboration
Image from Pontiacs Online article (lots more there)
Thanks, Ed Ahlstrom
Previously on GurneyJourney: Chrysler PersonalitiesCar Names


Suciô Sanchez said...

I'd never heard the back-story but I love those images.

Cars should have names like "Monte Carlo", "Capri", "Cortina", not "Camry" or "Prius".

Kessie said...

I've seen those kinds of car pictures, but it never dawned on me that a human being may have painted them. Derp!

I love his statement you have in closing, about making a psychological statement about the car. I've seen lots of nice photos or even paintings of cars driving fast, but it doesn't have the same positive impact that "cool car with cool people in cool places" does.

robh said...

thanks for that background on some of my favorite illustrations!!

Marc said...

Fitz and Van made some amazing illustrations. They have been a big inspiration for me. They were masters at conveying a mood.

One of my instructors at Art Center mentioned that sometimes Fitz would paint the car on a separate illustration board, carefully cut out the silhouette and peel up the edge of the top paper surface, then in one confident yank, he peeled the finished illustration off so he could glue it to Van's finished background. If he hesitated in the least, only part of the painting would come off, ruining it and he would have to repaint the whole thing.

As much as I appreciate photography, it is a bit of a shame that it has taken over advertising, book covers and movie posters to such a great extent. This level of draftsmanship is extremely rare these days. Thanks for the great post!

PPASP said...
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Celeste Bergin said...

I just feel compelled to tell you that my brother owned that car in Black & White...I swear, it was the most gorgeous car I've ever seen before or since. It's a 1959 Pontiac Catalina.

Libby Fife said...

I love the technical "cut and paste" job description. Makes me feel a whole lot better about some of the things that I do:)

Unknown said...

Great picture.

"He stretched the car into bolder proportions".
He didn't stretch that lady's proportions to such an extent. If he had: how about her physique?

Anyway: from her slim cycle she's simply admiring that sun-glassed chap in his bold-proportioned car;-)

J M said...

These are my faves, too. You can find quitea few reproductions in the 'All american ads' series published by Taschen.
Maybe it's just nostalgia or that I'm biased for artwork-based ads like these, but I find today's car commercials pretentious, boring and undescript (with some exceptions once in a while.)

Charley Parker said...

Wonderful. Thanks.

For a humorous take on the "stretched vehicle" illustration style, there's Bruce McCall's

Roger O'Reilly said...

Stunning work. Impossibly glamourous!
No wonder everyone wanted to live in America in the 50's and 60's. Talk about selling the sausage AND the sizzle!
Funny that so many of the scenarios are set in the Med. It would have been impossible to negotiate the streets of most European towns in those behemoths!
I remember an estate agent (realtor) in my home town of Drogheda, Ireland importing a giant cadillac and finding he couldn't park it anywhere, it wouldn't fit into many of the narrow streets and trying to pass by traffic where he could, was like trying to manouver a tank. I think it lasted about six months.