Frederick Gordon Crosby (1885-1943) was the greatest motoring artist of the classic car era. His drawings and paintings capture the excitement and romance of motor racing’s golden years, when the car industry was developing. He worked for Autocar magazine for most of his life.
Crosby had no formal training as an artist, although he did attend life classes at art school. In 1908 he started as a draughtsman in The Daimler Motor Company’s drawing office, sharing digs with Arthur Ludlow Clayton who worked for The Automobile Engineer. Clayton drew his publishers attention to Crosby, who was subsequently commissioned to create a perspective drawing of the BTH magneto. This was to be one of the first exploded drawings and so begun Crosby’s Autocar career.
It was at The Autocar that Crosby and Monty Tomb created the sketch Keeping up Appearances. Here Crosby sketched and Tombs wrote anecdotes about the construction of cars at the time. The characters created in Keeping up Appearances made it an instant hit the first time it was published, and it was produced for years afterwards. It humorously criticised the way that functionality of vehicles at the time was always put above aesthetics, much to Crosby’s disappointment.
Through his 30 odd years with Autocar, his talent and reputation grew. While not fond of travelling abroad, he would travel wherever his work took him. This included Paris, where he would sketch the latest models about to be released to the public.