Object Timeline

1930

  • Work on this object began.

1940

  • Work on this object ended.

2017

2020

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Drawing, Concept Car, ca. 1935

This is a Drawing. It is dated ca. 1935 and we acquired it in 2017. Its medium is brush and gouache, pen and ink on illustration board. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Although McBride is more widely known for the artwork he produced for the WPA and Chicago’s South Side Community Art Center, this design for an automobile dates from an important earlier phase of his artistic career. In McBride’s 1988 oral history interview with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, he explained that as a boy he, “spent sixteen years learning how to design automobiles, to make them real. Cars on the street today are some of the designs that I designed.” McBride sent groups of his automobile drawings to General Motors, hoping to join the company as a young illustrator. Though he was not offered a job as an automotive stylist, McBride’s compelling conceptual car drawings attracted the interest of local artist George Neal, who engaged him in joining Chicago’s Art Crafts Guild. According to McBride’s oral history, upon seeing the drawings, Neal remarked, “I’ve never seen cars like this. You’re in a class with Bel Geddes, Shamrock and Campbell, and David Owens.”
This particular design demonstrates an impulse for streamlined technology. An interview with McBride’s sister for his Chicago Tribune obituary might reference this particular concept drawing. In describing a watercolor automobile drawing that McBride painted for a contest, his sister explains, “They told him the cars would never be chartreuse. And look, now they are. My brother was a dreamer, and he was born way before his time.” The modernity of McBride’s design is emphasized by curving forms and vivid color choice—striking in comparison to the more rectangular and less chromatic vehicles of the 1930s. The streamlined design drawing is also reminiscent of Raymond Loewy’s sleek, polished oeuvre, including his drawings for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Cooper Hewitt’s collection.

It is credited Museum purchase through gift of Paul Herzan and from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund.

Its dimensions are

16.5 × 54.6 cm (6 1/2 × 21 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Drawing, Concept Car, ca. 1935; brush and gouache, pen and ink on illustration board; 16.5 × 54.6 cm (6 1/2 × 21 1/2 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Paul Herzan and from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 2017-18-14

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1108798023/ |title=Drawing, Concept Car, ca. 1935 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=6 July 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>