OP-Ed – David Uhl’s “In The Beginning”

Artist David Uhl should be a name familiar to attendees of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, or at least his work should be. His piece “Glorious Failure” was selected for the cover of the official 2008 Indianapolis 500 program. This year, he was one of the three artist chosen to create cover art for this year’s 100th Anniversary Edition program. The piece he submitted is called “In The Beginning” and is a tribute to that very first epic Indianapolis 500 Mile Race held back in 1911.

“After viewing hundreds of archival photographs, a singular image did not present itself as suitable for the occasion. Instead I chose to combine several elements to recreate this dramatic moment from the inaugural race. I especially was attracted to the elegance of the Victorian-clad spectators contrasted against the fierce, dusty drama unfolding on the track. It was not only an honor to be selected for this, but it was a really fun piece to dream up. I was elated to be invited to the museum to view the old glass plate negatives from the earliest of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s archives. Many great stories were told me by Mr. Donald Davidson, the historian at the museum, so I put some to paint. This particular image is a never before seen version of the inaugural race in 1911.” — David Uhl

David sought inspiration for his work in the historic photos from that inaugural event, all of which were in black and white, which makes his work even more impressive to me. What we as fans often overlook as we look back at those old monochromatic photos from 500s past is that even in 1911 the cars were just as colourful and vibrant as they are today. David does a great job at reminding us just how bright, colourful, and exciting that first race must have been. Even IMS Historian, Donald Davidson, was impressed with the work.

“It is an iconic moment as eventual winner Ray Harroun carves his way through lapped traffic in turn one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his way to winning the very first 500-Mile Race on May 30, 1911. Because of complaints from other teams that the engineering department of the local Nordyke & Marmon passenger car firm had produced a special single-seat car which did not allow for the commonly used riding mechanic (serving, among other things, as a second “pair of eyes”), driver/engineer Harroun rigged up above the cowling of the #32 Marmon “Wasp” what is believed to be the very first rear-view mirror ever used on an automobile. Out-distancing 39 other contestants, mostly driving stripped-down versions of current passenger cars, Harroun won in a time of six hours and 42 minutes to average 74.602 mph, witnessed by a huge crowd estimated in the region of 80,000, many of whom had come by rail from New York, Chicago, Cleveland and St. Louis. The winning team earned $14,250 from a total purse in excess of $30,000, which was a huge amount for the time.” — Donald Davidson, IMS Historian

If the program cover isn’t enough for you, you can buy larger sized canvas prints from his studio at http://www.uhlstudios.com/. You can also follow David on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/uhlstudios, and on Twitter, @uhlstudios. Keep listening to the OpenPaddock.net Podcast as soon we’ll be talking with David about his work, the inspiration for it, and his thoughts on the 100th Anniversary of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

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