IN HONOR OF THE CLOSING of
LONDON OLYMPIC GAMES 2012
It's only fitting to feature the artist synonymous with the Olympics and sporting events around the world.
welcome to the manshow,
Illustrator, Painter, showman
I will never forget when I was at the Miami International Airport in 1974 waiting to board a plane home to New York with my family, when out of the airplane steps no other than Leroy Neiman wearing a huge, swanky, full-length fur coat, sporting a long cigarette holder (lit cig in mouth of course!), and being accompanied by two beautiful women under each arm (not kidding!!). I was 10 year's old and totally mesmerized. He walked right passed me. It was like... I just saw Picasso + Dali or something! Hahaha, It was classic!
With sketchbook and pencil in hand, trademark handlebar mustache, cigar and slicked hair, Neiman was the "local" celebrity artist to the sports world, a media-savvy showman who knew how to enthrall audiences with his art. In '72, he sketched the world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, for the live television audience. He created countless live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official "CBS artist" of the Super Bowl. His long association with the Olympics began with the Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960, and he went on to cover the games in Munich '72, Montreal '76, Lake Placid '80, Sarajevo, and Los Angeles 1984, filling seemingly endless journals with spontaneous watercolor and ink drawings of the live events. Neiman's finished studio paintings were executed in household enamel paints which allowed him his fast moving strokes, explosion in reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows.
My favorite pieces were when he would draw directly on a menu, restaurant napkin, or whatever he could grab around him, incorporating the material within his pieces. Say what you will about his COLOR ... UMMM...LOUD + a bit crazy, and maybe he didn't get it right all of the time, but when he did his pieces were full of energy. Plus, the guy could actually draw. He never used an overhead projector or traced photographs, which one couldn’t say about most of the commercial guys of Neiman’s time (I won’t mention names: BERNIE FUCHS, ROBERT HEINDEL, BOB PEAK.) Sorry, don’t get me wrong, I love those guys, but, to be honest, all of them traced photographs and chose not to draw. Good or bad, like him or not, Neiman was always true to his art. No tricks up his sleeves.
LeRoy Runquist (given name) 1921, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father, a railroad worker, deserted the family when LeRoy was quite young, and he took the surname of his stepfather. LeRoy showed a flair for art at an early age. While attending a local Roman Catholic school, he impressed schoolmates by drawing ink tattoos on their arms during recess. As a teenager, he earned money by doing illustrations for local grocery stores. “I’d sketch a turkey, a cow, a fish, with the prices,” he told Cigar Aficionado. “And then I had the good sense to draw the guy who owned the store. This gave me tremendous power as a kid.”
After being drafted into the Army in 1942, he participated in the infamous invasion of Normandy and Battle of the Bulge. In his spare time he painted risqué murals on the walls of kitchens and mess halls. The Army’s Special Services Division, recognizing his talent, put him to work painting stage sets for Red Cross shows when he was stationed in Germany after the war. He studied briefly at the St. Paul School of Art (now the Minnesota Museum of American Art) before enrolling in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He later went on to teach figure drawing and fashion illustration there throughout the 1950s. When a janitor from the building next door to his threw out half-empty cans of enamel house paint, Neiman found his métier. Experimenting with the new medium, he embraced a rapid style of applying paint to canvas imposed by the free-flowing quality of the house paint. While doing freelance fashion illustration for the Carson Pirie Scott department store in Chicago in the early 1950s, he became friendly with a copywriter there who was on the verge of publishing the first issue of a men’s magazine his name was Hugh Hefner. His work has been published in every issue of Playboy since 1957. Despite his flamboyant "playboy-esk” reputation, on the contrary he was a self-described workaholic who seldom took vacations. He worked daily in his home studio at the Hotel des Artistes near Central Park.
Go CANTON, OHIO!
TAKE THAT GEORGE!
Christie’s recently auctioned the magazine archives including, a small 1969 Neiman painting "Le Mans" which sold for $107,550. He was constant supporter of the arts donating millions to various organizations, including a gift of $6 million to Columbia University’s School of Arts, and has aided many growing art centers and inspiring artists.
Marilyn Monroe singing, happy birthday Mr. President. circa 1962
mm @ the party
The Hotel des Artistes , Neiman's Apt. in NYC
The 10-story Gothic-style building "the Hotel des Artistes" was designed by architect George Mort Pollard and was considered the largest apt. building in the world at the time of its construction in 1917. He lived here with his wife of 55 years, Janet Byrme. Their swanky apartment was made up of double-height rooms, which conveniently overlooked Central Park and offered a phenomenal view.
pumping paint with Arnold
LeRoy chilllin with the METS.
drawing on the golf course.
Neiman working in his studio
Although he exhibited frequently, the critical respect eluded him. Mainstream art critics either ignored him completely or, if forced to consider his work, dismissed it with contempt as garish and superficial magazine illustration. Neiman's forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist. At Playboy, for example, he created Femlin, a female character in his line + brush work style that has appeared in the magazine since the mid fifties.
“Maybe the critics are right,” he told American Artist magazine, “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.”
LeRoy is in this picture with some big names. Holding up his drink.
David Hockney is behind him "with cig". Andy Warhol rockin the wig is right in front of him. circa 1980
Neiman said, “I have zeroed in on what you would call action... 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.”
"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life."