Volume 7 No 1 April 2016

Remembering Phyllis…

Phyllis Krim, one of the first major fine artists to “cross over” to the car world

By Wallace Wyss

Does one become a painter of cars because of early influences? Phyllis Krim, a major star in the world of depicting motorcars in oils, is an example of that theory. She attributed her interest in cars to the fact that she grew up in Pennsylvania across from a racetrack.

She became a serious artist, a graduate of the U of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts, and was already an established printmaker when she did her first car painting and subsequent automotive-themed prints in 1974. Actually before she did cars, she did engines, all kinds of engines, even steam engines and motorcycles.

Then she “discovered” the car.

Her favorite marques to depict were the long hooded, short tailed classics of the 1930s, both European and American.

She went to car shows and gathered material and then went home and depicted her favorites, putting most of her effort into the placement of the car, and the gleaming surfaces and chrome, abstracting the background into solid blocks of color, reminiscent in a way of Warhol.

Why did she choose to portray the cars of the rich? Well, Phyllis saw that the wealthy were the patrons of the car companies who built cars with cost no object, companies like Alfa Romeo (before the war) Hispano-Suiza , Duesenberg and Bugatti. As one critic writing a profile of her on the RoGallery website said, she saw cars as “a graphic representation of the American identification of ego with object, our inability to distinguish who we are from what we own.”