The 1907 Thomas Flyer was the artist’s first automotive work
The first American automobile race is generally held to be the Thanksgiving Day Chicago Times-Herald race of November 28, 1895. Press coverage of the event first aroused significant American interest in the automobile.
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Unlike some of his other automotive work, the Early American Race Car series series presented some interesting challenges. The subject cars were one of a kind and many were completely original. In addition, many had numerous owners and were located on the other side of the country.
Each painting attempts to present the vehicle in the context of it’s original surroundings and notable circumstances — In its actual condition at the time. Determined to capture all the accurate details, Mr. Mittenmaier often found himself traveling coast to coast to do justice to the original historical context.
“These works are like microcosms of specific times and places …”
This painstaking journey often involved rendering the car in its current location, then traveling to the scene of its historical accomplishment to capture the correct background setting. Frequently cars and places had dramatically changed, so the whole creative process took months to finish.
Robert Mittenmaier plans his paintings like a director would plan a movie. The setting, background and historical perspective are carefully researched, and each one of his Early American Race Cars represents the period-correct atmosphere. These works are like microcosms of specific times and places — As if he froze a certain place, miniaturized it and placed it in Masonite, complete with all its sights and sounds.
Painting the Winton Bullet
In 1903, Alexander Winton built his Winton Bullet race car (above: bottom right) to stimulate sales of his passenger cars. Very successful in its day, it was the first car to win a sanctioned race at Daytona Beach, and set records on the sands of Ormond Beach, Florida.
Robert Mittenmaier first captured the car at its home in Cleveland, Ohio. He then travelled to Ormond Beach in hopes of adding the famous garage to the background. Sadly, the structure burned down one month before his visit. Undeterred, Mittenmaier found the owner of the remains of the garage’s facade. Using the original charred pieces of wood, he was able to match the color of the garage and finish the painting. Also shown in the painting is the legendary 1905 Stanley Rocket (at left).
About Robert Mittenmaier
Robert Mittenmaier is an American artist who paints with acrylic on Masonite. His work includes early American race cars, vintage Ferraris and, more recently, street scenes and historic buildings in his hometown of Murphys, California. Learn more
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