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LeRoy Neiman: Artist dies at age 91
NEW YORK — LeRoy Neiman, the painter and sketch artist best known for evoking the kinetic energy of the world’s biggest sporting and leisure events with bright quick strokes, died Wednesday at age 91.
Neiman also was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine for many years and official painter of five Olympiads. His longtime publicist Gail Parenteau confirmed his death Wednesday but didn’t disclose the cause.
Neiman was a media-savvy artist who knew how to enthrall audiences with his instant renditions of what he observed. In 1972, he sketched the world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a live television audience.
He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.
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 the artist’s 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.”
Neiman’s paintings, many executed in household enamel paints that allowed the artist his fast-moving strokes, are an explosion in reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows of pure kinetic energy.
He has been described as an American impressionist, but the St. Paul, Minn., native preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.
“I don’t know if I’m an impressionist or an expressionist,” he told the AP. “You can call me an American first. … (but) I’ve been labeled doing neimanism, so that’s what it is, I guess.”
He worked in many media, producing thousands of etchings, lithographs and silkscreen prints known as serigraphy.
But his critics said Neiman’s forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist. At Playboy, for example, he created Femlin, the well-endowed nude that has graced the magazine’s Party Jokes page since 1957.
Neiman shrugged off such criticism.
“I can easily ignore my detractors and feel the people who respond favorably,” he said.
But it was the essence of a basketball or football game, swim meet or cycling event that captured his imagination most.
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