MotorCities National Heritage Area

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Ken Eberts and the Automotive Fine Arts Society
Posted: 12.22.2017

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With iconic prints such as “Dad’s Home,” and “California Pit Stop,” American painter Ken Eberts is considered one of the founding fathers of automotive fine arts. Eberts showed early talent as an illustrator during his childhood spent in the Bronx of New York City. Art would later become his great passion in life.

Eberts’ Scottish grandmother helped cultivate his love for automotive. That same grandmother would remain very much influential throughout Eberts’ early days as an automotive artist. For many years, he was an admirer of Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) who was one of America's great artistic talents. Eberts also points to realist painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) as another influence. Eberts was also drawn to the great movies from the 1930s and 1940s that featured great looking automobiles and street scenes.
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Eberts graduated from New York's High School of Music and Art then moving on to Los Angeles Art Center College of Design. His career began in 1965 with none other than the Ford Motor Company as a designer. Eberts was heavily involved in the design that would become the Mercury Cougar. In 1968, he made an important career change to focus more of his attention and talent toward creating and drawing automotive fine art for the consumer market. In 1966, he was hired by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to join their great design team for the development and creative design of the L-1011 airliner plane.

As his journey would continue, Eberts has achieved worldwide recognition for his automotive design work. Today, more than 1,200 of his original automotive paintings are in public and private collections that many people thoroughly enjoy and admire. I personally enjoy his creative works of automotive art because they help tell the story of our automotive heritage.
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Eberts once said, “My interest in cars began when I was a youngster growing up in the Bronx, New York. The view from my home was of a street filled with the colorful, exciting and futuristic cars of the 1950s. I was fascinated with them, and ever since I’ve had a love affair with cars especially the way they look.”

After many years, Eberts developed his own artistic technique in watercolor and gouache. This great combination of techniques allowed him to capture those details of glass, fins, chrome, and leather that has highlighted many of the vehicle designs from the past.
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The year was 1981 when Eberts introduced his automotive artwork at the prestigious Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. It was at Meadow Brook where he met five other artists specializing in automotive historical story lines. Each of the artists had interest in creating an organization dedicated to the recognition of automotive art. The name of the organization became the Automotive Fine Art Society (AFAS) and was founded in 1984. The organization's goal was to raise the standards of automotive art to a level of acceptance as serious fine art from the perspective of collectors and critics. Since 1986, the group has presented at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where hundreds of automotive fine art can be viewed throughout 8,000 square feet of exhibit space.
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Eberts is known for many recognizable works such as the show poster for the AACA National fall meet at Hershey, Pennsylvania from 1996 to 2016. Other automotive posters included Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance special events that attracted many people from around the world. Additional works by Ken are in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 2003, Eberts was named Ford Motor Company's official Centennial Artist following Norman Rockwell who had been Ford's 50th Anniversary artist in 1953. In 2013, William Jeanne’s, former editor in chief of “Car & Driver” described Ken Ebert's automotive fine art by saying “Ken's realistic, highly detailed technique creates scenes of America's past that somehow become a part of one's own past. His work...has deja vu quality.”

In conclusion, Ken Eberts is a great artist and a talented illustrator. Today, many people all over the world recognize his automotive artwork as one of the best.
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Durnell Gerry. “A Celebration of Automotive Art” c 2005 Automobile Quarterly.
Petrolicious Production. “Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a Ken Ebert Winter Scene” December