Leroy Neiman

artist artwork
Best known for his brilliantly colored, stunningly energetic images of sporting events and leisure activities, LeRoy Neiman is probably the most popular living artist in the United States. The artistic style of the fabulously successful 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. " The majority of Neiman's paintings focus on sports--some two dozen of them, ranging from basketball, boxing, billiards, and hockey to gymnastics, shot put, swimming, and cycling.

Neiman is of Turkish and Swedish descent ("as near as I can figure out," as he has said), LeRoy Neiman was born on June 8, 1921 in St. Paul, Minnesota to Charles Runquist, an unskilled laborer, and Lydia (Serline) Runquist. He was a teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 10 years early in his career, after studying there, Neiman also gained wide recognition as contributing artist for Playboy, in the 1950s.

By his own account, LeRoy Neiman works very hard, has no hobbies, and does not take vacations. He paints in a double-height studio in the Hotel des Artistes, a landmark New York City building across the street from one of his favorite subjects--Central Park. In the same building he maintains an office; a penthouse pied-a-terre; and an apartment that he shares with his best friend--his wife, the former Janet Byrne, whom he married on June 22, 1957. His archives, which he is currently assembling for preservation at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., are also kept there. His signature black handlebar mustache and luxuriant slicked-back hair are now peppered with gray, and he is seldom photographed without his trademark prop, a long cigar. Described by Malcolm Lein as quiet and warm, for many years he cultivated a reputation as a flamboyant man-about-town. "I like being outrageous. . . ," he acknowledged to Pete Dexter for Esquire (July 1984). "I don't actually do anything, except be conspicuous. It keeps me revved up." In the New Yorker (February 5, 1979), he was quoted as saying, "My performance is part of my success."