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Pop painter LeRoy Neiman dies at 91

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

His biggest crime as an artist was in painting pictures that the public at large wanted to see. Artist LeRoy Neiman, in broad, garish strokes would render portraits of top U.S. athletes, as well as scenes from around the world. While many in the artistic community dismissed Neiman as lowly kitsch, the joke was on them. While Andy Warhol likewise rendered day-glow portraits of celebrities, Neiman did the exact same thing without the slightest bit of irony, and was embraced and understood by everyone. Neiman has passed away at the age of 91.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Neiman's style was termed "impressionistic." In lieu of tasteful landscape scenes, Neiman crafted paintings of numerous Super Bowls and Olympic Games, produced on live television. Neiman was unmistakable for his trademark handlebar moustache, ever-ready cigar and loud shirts. He eventually became the official artist of the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Winter Games and the 1984 Summer Games.

Neiman also painted numerous heavyweight boxing matches in addition to the 1972 world chess championship match between American Bobby Fisher and Russian Boris Spassky. Neiman also created portraits of such figures as boxing legend Muhammad Ali and football star Joe Namath.

Neiman first became a contributing artist for the men's magazine Playboy in the Fifties. His series for the magazine took him to some of the world's most exciting events such as the Grand Prix auto race in Monaco, the steeplechase horse races in London and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Neiman's "reportage of history and the passing scene . revived an almost lost and time-honored art form," according to a 1972 exhibit catalog of his Olympics sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life," Neiman said in a June 2008 interview with The Associated Press. "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."

Many of his paintings were executed in household enamel paints, described as an explosion of reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows of pure kinetic energy. Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, Neiman preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.

"I don't know if I'm an impressionist or an expressionist," he once opined. "You can call me an American first. . (but) I've been labeled doing neimanism, so that's what it is, I guess."

Neiman is survived by his wife of 55 years, Janet Byrne Neiman.

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