Leroy Neiman, best known for his impressionistic paintings about sports, playboy bunnies, celebrities, political figures, and wild animals, has passed away in New York at the age of 91 after a long battle with cancer.
He had amazing experiences in his painting career, even being the official painter of five Olympic games, and also a contributing artist at Playboy magazine for years. The Associated Press reports that he was a media-savvy artist and was able to enthrall audiences with his instant renditions of things he observed. He even sketched the 1972 world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in front of a live TV audience.
A 1972 exhibit catalog of his Olympics sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art stated that the artist’s, “reportage of history and the passing scene … revived an almost lost and time-honored art form.”
According to the New York Times, LeRoy Neiman never became a critically acclaimed artist. Instead, mainstream critics usually either ignored him completely or dismissed his work as garish and superficial. Neiman, however, did not seem to care. He told American Artist Magazine in 1995 that:
“Maybe the critics are right. 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.”
The Associated Press notes that Neiman stated in a June 2008 interview that:
“It’s been fun. I’ve had a lucky life. I’ve zeroed in on what you would call action and excellence. … Everybody who does anything to try to succeed has to give the best of themselves, and art has made me pull the best out of myself.”
LeRoy Neiman is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1957.