From 1959 to 1971 Van Kaufman (VK) and Art Fitzpatrick (AF) worked as a collaborative partnership, illustrating exclusively for Pontiac Motors. Fitzpatrick had previously been employed as an automotive designer while Kaufman had worked in the Disney Studio as an animator and background artist. Illustrators are often solitary creatures and this level of cooperation is very unusual but both Kaufman and Fitzpatrick had prior experience of collaborative workplaces. The division of labour meant that Fitzpatrick illustrated the vehicles while Kaufman painted the backgrounds.
This was a late flowering of the art of the illustrator – by 1959 most car advertisers favoured the photographic image but the VK-AF team brought an unequalled wealth of surface detail combined with an intoxicating richness of colour. The cars appeared longer and wider than ever - the paintwork dazzled and the chrome sparkled with transcendent brilliance. Unlike some other manufacturers, Pontiac advertising had never been aimed directly at the blue-collar readership by locating the car in everyday surroundings – the school run, the shopping trip, the drive-in, the gas station, the toll booth. But in the 1960s they cultivated an air of status and exclusivity with exotic overseas locations, grand mansions and the pursuits of the high earners all expressed in super-saturated, high contrast colour palettes. Kaufman employed a variety of styles for his landscapes and cityscapes from hyper-realism, through impressionism to a more contemporary, gestural finish but the cars were invariably immaculate and sublime, almost always presented in a position of rest to be admired for their sculptural qualities. This is a small selection from their prodigious output, claimed by some to be more than 700 in all. There’s a vast archive to be seen at Pontiacsonline.