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LeRoy Neiman

 (1921 - 2012)
LeRoy Neiman was active/lived in New York, Illinois, Minnesota.  LeRoy Neiman is known for athletic genre, sport figure and humor painting, illustration, teaching.

LeRoy Neiman

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for LeRoy Neiman
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist:

LeRoy Neiman Dies at 91; Artist of Bold Life and Bright Canvases
Published: June 20, 2012

LeRoy Neiman, whose brilliantly colored, impressionistic sketches of sporting events and the international high life made him one of the most popular artists in the United States, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 91.

Mr. Neiman's kinetic, quickly executed paintings and drawings, many of them published in Playboy, offered his fans gaudily colored visual reports on heavyweight boxing matches, Super Bowl games and Olympic contests, as well as social panoramas like the horse races at Deauville, France, and the Cannes Film Festival.

Quite consciously, he cast himself in the mold of French Impressionists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Degas, chroniclers of public life who found rich social material at racetracks, dance halls and cafes.

Mr. Neiman often painted or sketched on live television. With the camera recording his progress at the sketchpad or easel, he interpreted the drama of Olympic Games and Super Bowls for an audience of millions.

When Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky faced off in Reykjavik, Iceland, to decide the world chess championship, Mr. Neiman was there, sketching. He was on hand to capture Federico Fellini directing "8 ½" and the Kirov Ballet performing in the Soviet Union.

In popularity, Mr. Neiman rivaled American favorites like Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses and Andrew Wyeth. A prolific one-man industry, he generated hundreds of paintings, drawings, watercolors, limited-edition serigraph prints and coffee-table books yearly, earning gross annual revenue in the tens of millions of dollars.

Although he exhibited constantly and his work was included in the collections of dozens of museums around the world, critical respect eluded him. Mainstream art critics either ignored him completely or, if forced to consider his work, dismissed it with contempt as garish and superficial — magazine illustration with pretensions. Mr. Neiman professed not to care.

Maybe the critics are right," he told American Artist magazine in 1995. "But what am I supposed to do about it — stop painting, change my work completely? I go back into the studio, and there I am at the easel again. I enjoy what I'm doing and feel good working. Other thoughts are just crowded out."

His image suggested an artist well beyond the reach of criticism. A dandy and bon vivant, he cut an arresting figure with his luxuriant ear-to-ear mustache, white suits, flashy hats and Cuban cigars. "He quite intentionally invented himself as a flamboyant artist not unlike Salvador Dalí, in much the same way that I became Mr. Playboy in the late '50s," Hugh Hefner told Cigar Aficionado magazine in 1995.

LeRoy Runquist was born on June 8, 1921, in St. Paul. His father, a railroad worker, deserted the family when LeRoy was quite young, and the boy took the surname of his stepfather.

He showed a flair for art at an early age. While attending a local Roman Catholic school, he impressed schoolmates by drawing ink tattoos on their arms during recess.

As a teenager, he earned money doing illustrations for local grocery stores. "I'd sketch a turkey, a cow, a fish, with the prices," he told Cigar Aficionado. "And then I had the good sense to draw the guy who owned the store. This gave me tremendous power as a kid."

After being drafted into the Army in 1942, he served as a cook in the European theater but in his spare time painted risqué murals on the walls of kitchens and mess halls. The Army's Special Services Division, recognizing his talent, put him to work painting stage sets for Red Cross shows when he was stationed in Germany after the war.

On leaving the military, he studied briefly at the St. Paul School of Art (now the Minnesota Museum of American Art) before enrolling in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where, after four years of study, he taught figure drawing and fashion illustration throughout the 1950s.

When the janitor of the apartment building next door to his threw out half-empty cans of enamel house paint, Mr. Neiman found his métier. Experimenting with the new medium, he embraced a rapid style of applying paint to canvas imposed by the free-flowing quality of the house paint.

While doing freelance fashion illustration for the Carson Pirie Scott department store in Chicago in the early 1950s, he became friendly with Mr. Hefner, a copywriter there who was on the verge of publishing the first issue of a men's magazine.

In 1954, after five issues of Playboy had appeared, Mr. Neiman ran into Mr. Hefner and invited him to his apartment to see his paintings of boxers, strip clubs and restaurants. Mr. Hefner, impressed, showed the work to Playboy's art director, Art Paul, who commissioned an illustration for "Black Country," a story by Charles Beaumont about a jazz musician.

Thus began a relationship that endured for more than half a century and established Mr. Neiman's reputation.

In 1955, when Mr. Hefner decided that the party-jokes page needed visual interest, Mr. Neiman came up with the Femlin, a curvaceous brunette who cavorted across the page in thigh-high stockings, high-heeled shoes, opera gloves and nothing else. She appeared in every issue of the magazine thereafter.

Three years later, Mr. Neiman devised a running feature, "Man at His Leisure." For the next 15 years, he went on assignment to glamour spots around the world, sending back visual reports on subjects as varied as the races at Royal Ascot, the dining room of the Tour d'Argent in Paris, the nude beaches of the Dalmatian coast, the running of the bulls at Pamplona and Carnaby Street in swinging London. He later produced more than 100 paintings and 2 murals for 18 of the Playboy clubs that opened around the world.

"Playboy made the good life a reality for me and made it the subject matter of my paintings — not affluence and luxury as such, but joie de vivre itself," Mr. Neiman told V.I.P. magazine in 1962.

Working in the same copywriting department at Carson Pirie Scott as Mr. Hefner was Janet Byrne, a student at the Art Institute. She and Mr. Neiman married in 1957. She survives him.

A prolific artist, he generated dozens of paintings each year that routinely commanded five-figure prices. When Christie's auctioned off the Playboy archives in 2003, his 1969 painting Man at His Leisure: Le Mans sold for $107,550. Sales of the signed, limited-edition print versions of his paintings, published in editions of 250 to 500, became a lucrative business in itself after Knoedler Publishing, a wholesale operation, was created in 1975 to publish and distribute his serigraphs, etchings, books and posters.

Mr. Neiman's most famous images came from the world of sports. His long association with the Olympics began with the Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960, and he went on to cover the games, on live television, in Munich in 1972, Montreal in 1976, Lake Placid in 1980, and Sarajevo and Los Angeles in 1984, using watercolor, ink or felt-tip marker to produce images with the dispatch of a courtroom sketch artist. At the 1978 and 1979 Super Bowls, he used a computerized electronic pen to portray the action for CBS.

Although he was best known for scenes filled with people and incident, he also painted many portraits. Athletes predominated, with Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath among his more famous subjects, but he also painted Leonard Bernstein, the ballet dancer Suzanne Farrell, the poet Marianne Moore and Sylvester Stallone, who gave Mr. Neiman cameo roles in three "Rocky" films.

His many books included LeRoy Neiman: Art and Life Style, Horses, Winners: My Thirty Years in Sports, Big-Time Golf, LeRoy Neiman on Safari and LeRoy Neiman: Five Decades. In 1995, he donated $6 million to Columbia University's School of the Arts to endow the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies.

His memoir, All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies and Provocateurs, was published this month.

Online Source:

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for LeRoy Neiman
Following are Editorial Reviews of Neiman's 2012 autobiography, All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies, and Provocateurs.

Editorial Reviews
"What intrigued me about LeRoy from the very beginning was that his work was rooted in fine art.  He was teaching at the Art Institute when nobody else was blurring the lines between fine art and commercial art like he was. He's always had that distinctive LeRoy style, one that I knew from day one would define the unique nature of Playboy. Trust has been the key to our relationship, and he's the only artist I've worked with for more than fifty years. He's a tremendous talent and a tremendous human being." 
          —Hugh Hefner

"It was not unusual for me to look up from a workout or a sparring session to see LeRoy perched on a chair, off to the side, studying my movements while sketching in quick strokes. With his bold colors and distinctive artistic style, LeRoy's art and sketches captured my attention and imagination. He made me look as colorful and pretty on paper as I was in person—now that's talent!"
          —Muhammad Ali
"LeRoy Neiman's love of jazz is real.  His series of stunning poster art, depicting Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday contributed immensely to the success that is The Newport Jazz Festival. LeRoy donated this work to us in the years between 1964 and 2004.  He would accept no compensation, which we couldn't have afforded any way. His work and his story, All Told, are priceless."
          —George Wein, jazz impresario, founder of The Newport Jazz Festival
"Pop culture's court painter, LeRoy Neiman, turns 91, an occasion he'll celebrate by publishing an often amusing autobiography…"
           —The New York Times Style magazine

From the Inside Flap
LeRoy Neiman—arguably the world's most recognizable contemporary artist—broke the barrier between fine art and popular art during a career in which he created indelible images that helped define the twentieth century. But it is the life he's lived and the people he's known that make the memoir of this scrappy Depression-era kid who became a swashbuckling bon vivant with the famous mustache such a marvelous historical canvas.

Chronicler and confidant of Muhammad Ali, Neiman also traveled with Sinatra, cavorted with Dalí and Warhol, watched afternoon soaps with Dizzy Gillespie, played in Sly Stallone's Rocky movies, exchanged quips with Nixon, smoked cigars with Castro, and experienced the September 5, 1972, terrorist attacks at the Munich Olympics alongside Peter Jennings,  Howard Cosell, and Jim McKay. And then there's his half-century relationship with Hugh Hefner as principle artistic contributor to Playboy since its founding, setting up studios in London and Paris to cover his Playboy beat, "Man at His Leisure," and his creation of the Femlin, the iconic Playboy nymphette. And, still, there's so much more . . .

With his life's work, and now in All Told, LeRoy Neiman has captured sports heroes, movie stars, presidents, dishwashers, jet-setters, jockeys, and more than a few Bunnies at the Playboy Mansion—a panoramic record of society like no other.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for LeRoy Neiman
LeRoy Neiman (1921-2012)

Known for his bright, colorful paintings and screen prints of famous sports stars in a semi-abstract style, LeRoy Neiman became one of the 20th centuries most successful illustrators.  At sporting events, he became a well-known figure in natty attire with bushy beard and sketchbook.

He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois.

His mediums are oil, enamel, serigraphy and etching, and his studio is in New York City, just off Central Park West.

In 2000, a major book of his serigraphs, The Prints of LeRoy Neiman, 1991-2000, was published by Knoedler Publishing of New York.

His many books included LeRoy Neiman: Art and Life Style, Horses, Winners: My Thirty Years in Sports, Big-Time Golf, LeRoy Neiman on Safari and LeRoy Neiman: Five Decades.  In 1995, he donated $6 million to Columbia University's School of the Arts to endow the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies.

His memoir, All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies and Provocateurs, was published in June of 2012.

Mr. Neiman died on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 in Manhattan.

Biography from
Biography photo for LeRoy Neiman
LeRoy Neiman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, De Paul University, and the University of Illinois.  He taught at the Art Institute of Chicago's school for ten years.

Neiman moved to New York City in 1963 when he had his first one-man show at the Hammer Gallery.  Since then he has continued to portray the people and events of the world he knows best, or which intrigue him most.

His best-known works are sports scenes, a reflection, he believes, of the fact that sports are universally a dominant force.  He was the official artist for ABC-TV at the Olympic Games in 1972 and 1976, and at the Winter Olympics of 1980.

Neiman's work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Hermitage in Leningrad.

Biography from CRS Consulting
Biography photo for LeRoy Neiman
Best known for his brilliantly colored,  energetic images of sporting events and leisure activities, LeRoy Neiman is familiar to a remarkably broad spectrum of Americans --"rich and poor, black and white, urban and rural, educated and illiterate," and young and old alike.

He was the official artist at five Olympiads. Millions of people have watched him at work: on ABC TV coverage of the Olympics,as CBS Superbowl computer artist, and at other major competitions, televised on location with his sketchbook and drawing materials, producing split-second records and highly developed images of what he is witnessing.

Biography from Acquisitions of Fine Art
'Best known for his brilliantly colored, energetic images of sporting events and leisure activities, LeRoy Neiman was a popular living artist in the United States before his passing in June 2012.

His art is unique. It is an art which has become controversial because Neiman has broken the barriers of many of the most hallowed assumptions of modern art history and contemporary criticism. It is an art that is loved by millions of people throughout America and around the world.'

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About  LeRoy Neiman

Born:  1921 - St. Paul, Minnesota
Died:   2012 - New York City
Known for:  athletic genre, sport figure and humor painting, illustration, teaching

Essays referring to
LeRoy Neiman

Olympic Artists