Art Fitzpatrick, one half of the team that created some of the most eye-catching advertising artwork for General Motors from 1959 to 1971, passed away on November 14, 2015 in Carlsbad, California at the age of 96. His wife Betty planned a memorial tribute that was held in Carlsbad on November 24th, which would have been Art’s 97th birthday.
“Art Fitzpatrick is considered the creator of the most recognizable, successful, and influential auto-advertising artwork of all time,” stated Michael Spezia, Executive Director of the Gilmore Car Museum. “We were honored that Art chose the Gilmore as the home for his incredible work and were thrilled to have the rare opportunity to hear him tell of his experiences.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick donated several hundred pieces of his artwork—originals, ad mockups, and limited edition prints—to the Gilmore Car Museum in early 2015. Fifty works were selected to be showcased in an all-new art gallery that flanks the Automotive Heritage Center’s Main Gallery.
On June 5, 2015, Art gave a lecture on his astounding career to an enthusiastic crowd as part of a kick off for the Museum’s special exhibition “Mid-Century Performance.” It is believed to have been Art’s last public appearance. At nearly 97 years old, he was quick-witted with a sharp memory and took questions from a very appreciative audience after the lecture.
Motor Trend Magazine described Art as “more than an automotive icon [he was] a national treasure.” Fitzpatrick is best known for the hundreds of auto advertisements he turned out for Mercury, Lincoln, Nash, Plymouth, Kaiser, and Buick, and most notably for Pontiac between 1959 and 1971.
His artwork, often set in exotic locals, depicted romance and a glamour as never seen before in automotive advertising. Many see Fitzpatrick as a major influence to every car designer and automotive artist around the world today.
“Fitzpatrick was considered the last surviving designer from the classic era,” points out Todd Lassa of AUTOMOBILE magazine. “He designed custom-bodied prewar Packards for Howard “Dutch” Darrin, worked for John Tjaarda at Briggs Body, briefly for Harley Earl’s General Motors design staff, for Hudson and Packard, before serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.”
After the war, Fitzpatrick began to illustrate automotive ads and designed appliances for General Electric. During his astounding seven decades of award winning work, Art produced everything from automotive designs to best-selling commemorative US Postal stamps, accumulating over 50 major art and design awards.
“We will be forever grateful for Art and Betty’s generous gift to the Museum, where his legacy will grow for generations to come,” said Michael Spezia. “We consider it an honor to have his collection here and we pledge to forever be trustworthy stewards of the history of this incredible man and his work.”