American Dreaming is an as yet unreleased documentary on mid 20th century American car design art, the artists and designers who created it and the attempts of art collector Robert Edwards to collect and preserve as much of it as possible.
Much of this art was meant to be destroyed by the car manufacturers who commissioned it, lest their advanced designs, even the unused ones, fall into the hand of competitors.
The artists themselves saved some of the art, smuggling it out of the company offices in false-bottom boxes and by other means, rather than seeing it destroyed.
PBS has a selection of about a dozen examples on their website.
(Images above: George Krispinsky, Ben Kroll or Richard Arbib, Del Coates, Charles Balogh)
2 Replies to “American Dreaming”
Unfortunately I know this story too well since my Dad was a designer for Ford in the 60’s. As a child I remember asking him about all his drawings and was told they were destroyed by the company for the reasons mentioned in your post.
Over the years I still could not help but think the companies could have/should have locked them in a vault until their designs were obsolete which would not have been that long. I think he told me a small percentage may have been kept in company archives but I’m not sure about that. Either way is incredibly sad to know large volumes of work, and as the article sited a part of our cultural history, are gone forever.
That would be a bit like taking an artists body of work and eliminating the entire middle part of their career/work forever.
On a good note though these bring back memories of his college portfolio which we still have in the family and a small amount of freelance work he did in his later years. Very similar to the ones featured here.
The originals at that time were done in chalk pastel, colored pencil with small amounts of gouache and inks. Marker in the later years .
Big thanks for this post Charley.
Thanks, David. An unfortunate practice.
One of the other sad effects of this kind of corporate disdain for art and artists, it that the history of his kind of work has suffered a loss in the general sense as well as the personal sense. They’ve not only robbed that history from the artists, but from the rest of us as well.
Goes along with stories I’ve heard about comic book artists in the mid 20th century, to whom companies refused to return artwork, but instead would often casually dispose of it. Also there were many illustrators, who if they did receive their work back, often received it damaged or obviously ill treated, with evidence of casual neglect, like coffee rings, etc.
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