Theme/Style – Impressionism, genre scenes, sports scenes, portraits
Media – Oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, printmaking
Artistic Focus – LeRoy Neiman’s brilliantly colored, impressionistic sketches of sporting events and other social panoramas made him one of the most popular artists in the United States. He quite consciously cast himself in the mold of French Impressionists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Degas, chronicling public life and international joie de vivre in his vibrant, kinetic canvases.
Career Highlights –
- Born LeRoy Runquist in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1921, Neiman eventually took the surname of his stepfather, and as a teenager he earned money doing illustrations for local grocery stores.
- Neiman was drafted into the Army in 1942 and, stationed in Germany after World War II, he worked for the Army’s Special Services Division painting stage sets for Red Cross shows.
- Neiman then studied briefly at the St. Paul School of Art, after which he studied for four years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and went on to teach figure drawing and fashion illustration there throughout the 1950s.
- During this time Neiman began experimenting with house paint, developing his signature style of rapid application; and it was while doing fashion illustration for a Chicago department store that Neiman met Hugh Hefner, who was about to publish the first issue of Playboy.
- Hefner, impressed with Neiman’s work, commissioned an illustration for an early issue of the magazine, and thus began a 50-year relationship that established Neiman’s reputation as an artist.
- From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Neiman’s Playboy feature, “Man at His Leisure,” took him to locations around the world, where he painted scenes such as the races at Royal Ascot, the running of the bulls at Pamplona, London’s Carnaby Street, the filming of Fellini’s 8 1/2, the Kirov Ballet, and the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky World Chess Championship. He also produced paintings and murals for Playboy clubs at their numerous locations worldwide.
- Neiman’s long association with the Olympics began with the Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960, and he could be seen on live television using watercolor and ink to sketch the action in Munich (1971), Montreal (1976), Lake Placid (1980), and Sarajevo and Los Angeles (1984). He also drew scenes of the 1978 and 1979 Super Bowls with a computerized electronic pen live on CBS television.
- Neiman also painted many images of horseracing throughout his career, as well as portraits; and among his notable subjects were Muhammad Ali, Sylvester Stallone, Leonard Bernstein, ballet dancer Suzanne Farrell, and poet Marianne Moore.
- In 1995, Neiman endowed the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
- LeRoy Neiman passed away in New York City in 2012, soon after the publication of his memoir, All Told: My Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies and Provocateurs.
Bibliographic references are available upon request.