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The first Kentucky Derby that Artist Tomi Ungerer ever saw
May 07, 1962
The first Kentucky Derby that Artist Tomi Ungerer ever saw was last year's, but he painted The Derby—not just the 87th running of it. His fresh eye and bold style produced our cover, the paintings on the following pages and some crisp comments as well: I didn't fall in love at first with the beauty of the horses as much as with the stunning mass of color, especially the crowds and the jockeys. For me it wasn't the fascination of the connoisseur. I had never seen such a gathering in my life. It reminded me of an Easter parade in New York—good taste, bad taste conglomerated into one wild unit. It was hard to understand this crowd that had traveled thousands of miles for the climax of a very few seconds. Anyway, here they were, all the social levels mixed together, absorbed into one event. At first I was like an observer trying to take these people apart. But then my neighbors' excitement became contagious. I had met Carry Back one morning. He was grazing by his barn. Suddenly, for no reason, I wanted him to win. From then on I felt like anybody else. I even placed a bet.
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May 07, 1962

The First Kentucky Derby That Artist Tomi Ungerer Ever Saw

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The first Kentucky Derby that Artist Tomi Ungerer ever saw was last year's, but he painted The Derby—not just the 87th running of it. His fresh eye and bold style produced our cover, the paintings on the following pages and some crisp comments as well: I didn't fall in love at first with the beauty of the horses as much as with the stunning mass of color, especially the crowds and the jockeys. For me it wasn't the fascination of the connoisseur. I had never seen such a gathering in my life. It reminded me of an Easter parade in New York—good taste, bad taste conglomerated into one wild unit. It was hard to understand this crowd that had traveled thousands of miles for the climax of a very few seconds. Anyway, here they were, all the social levels mixed together, absorbed into one event. At first I was like an observer trying to take these people apart. But then my neighbors' excitement became contagious. I had met Carry Back one morning. He was grazing by his barn. Suddenly, for no reason, I wanted him to win. From then on I felt like anybody else. I even placed a bet.

There was a medieval quality about the big parade to the betting windows—the colorful dresses and the bizarre hats. Oddly, there was quiet and even boredom in the room where the jockeys wait for the next race.

Finally the race began, and I was caught up in the great excitement. I was no longer an observer. I was with Carry Back, and as he passed Crozier and came on to the finish it was a sigh of relief to me. [Turn page for Ungerer's last view of Carry Back.]

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