The Atmospheric Automotive Illustration of John Killmaster

James Kraus

JK - 1 (7)

1960 Ford Starliner in Corinthian White at Manganese Falls, Copper Harbor Michigan.

A resident artist at LaDriere Studios in Detroit from 1953 through 1963, John Killmaster’s mature style corresponds aptly with the Jet Age aesthetic of Auto Universum.

John often created entire pieces, but his forte was producing lush, painterly backgrounds that flatteringly framed the selected automobiles.  Continue reading


1969 and the Psychedelic Artwork of Paul Williams; when Plymouth Told It Like It Was

James Kraus

1969 Plymouth Cuda 340 Fastback.

1969. The turbulent coda of the nineteen-sixties. The Année Érotique.

Apollo 11 landed men on the moon, 400,000 attended the Woodstock Music & Art Fair and the world witnessed the maiden flights of the Concorde and Hugh Hefner’s DC-9 Big Bunny.  Continue reading

The Automobile in 1960s Lifestyle Magazine Illustration

James Kraus

JK - 1 (6)

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, Morgan Kane, 1960. Image © IPD. Note latch detail on open door.

Illustration as an art form somewhat fell from favour after the 1960s, increasingly being replaced by photography. This was apparent even in automotive print advertising, with Pontiac abandoning their decade-plus relationship with illustration masters Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman.  Continue reading

Art and the Automobile: The VW Beetle Sculptures of Ichwan Noor

James Kraus

JK - 1 (9)

Beetle Sphere, Ichwan Noor, 2015

The VW Beetle has probably appeared in more artwork than any other vehicle. In 2011, Indonesian sculptor Ichwan Noor added to the Beetle’s catalogue raisonné when he began a series of lifesize full-scale VWs transformed into to perfect spheres and cubes.   Continue reading

Art and the Automobile: Conmemorando el SEAT 600

James Kraus

JK - 1 (15)

Monumento al SEAT 600, 2008

While many nations have seemingly all but forgotten specific examples of their automotive heritage, Spain is a notable exception.

Spain’s SEAT 600; a licensed duplicate of the celebrated Fiat 600, was the second automobile to be manufactured by Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo.  Continue reading

Art and the Automobile: Vector Portraits

James Kraus

Man cruising south-southeast at 65 mph on Highway 101 near Toro Canyon on June 19th as the tide is coming in, 2010

Man cruising south-southeast at 65 mph on Highway 101 near Toro Canyon on June 19th as the tide is coming in, 2010. Tap to view full-size

On a trip to Modernism Week in Palm Springs earlier this year I visited the home of a prominent art and vintage car collector. While attending to a glass of distilled spirits in his library, I was entranced by a pair of outsize Vector Portraits by Los Angeles photographer Andrew Bush. Initially garnering my attention were the vehicles depicted: a 1968 Porsche 911 and a 1964 Ford Falcon Ranchero.

Unlike static portraits, these dynamic documentary-style images captured their subjects in motion, moving through time and space while cocooned within the semi-private environment of their personal vehicles.   Continue reading

Master Purveyors of Jet Age Glamour: Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman

by James Kraus

Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman at Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, California, 1965

Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman at Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, California, 1965.

During the 1960s, Pontiac brochures and advertising were dominated by dramatic illustrations created by the team of Art ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman. These lush images depicted scenes of glamour and sophistication populated by suave, well-attired cosmopolitan characters, always accompanied by a larger-than-life Pontiac with shimmering chrome and glistening paintwork.

These were images that the aspirational car buyer could fantasize inserting himself into, and they nourished the idea that maybe he himself might gain access to this beautiful and exotic world if he were to go out and buy a new Pontiac.  Continue reading

Eine Woche in Volkswagenwerk, 1953

by James Kraus

VW bodies travel on overhead conveyor from paint shop to final assembly, Wolfsburg, Germany

In April of 1953, German photographer Peter Keetman (1916-2005) spent a week at the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg. Peter was a founding member of Fotoform, a group of German photographers whose work meshed abstraction with objectivity, often incorporating close-ups and repetition. The images resulting from the Volkswagen project eventually became some of his favourite and best known.

When Herr Keetman visited, VW was at a pivotal point in its history. The Beetle and the Type II Transporter/Microbus were the only two products Volkswagen produced. However, a third model, the Karmann Ghia, had been developed and was little more than a year from introduction. The Wolfsburg plant was still VW’s only automobile manufacturing facility, but their second European assembly plant (Hanover) was in the planning stage, and Volkswagen do Brazil was in the process of beginning pilot production.

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