LeRoy Neiman, who famously painted gorgeous, colorful portraits of sports figures, has died. He was 91 years old.
Neiman painted other subjects, as well, but became known in the public eye as an artist for athletes after he was named the official artist for the Olympic games in 1980 and ’84. His vibrant paintings captured the subjects with raw emotion using several sharp brush strokes and a vivid color pallet; he made it look so easy that several people tried to imitate his style. But it was impossible to recreate Neiman’s bold work in the same way.
“There was always a genuine aspect to it,” said Patty Otis Abel, an editor of his memoir. “It was never phony. This was a genuine guy and a true original.”
Neiman truly lived life to the fullest and was something of a vessel for our history; after enlisting in the army in 1942, he stormed the beach at Normandy and took on the Battle of the Bulge. After surviving the horrors of war, he came home and enrolled in an art institute on the G.I. Bill, expanding his natural talent. As he began to establish himself as an artist, he made good friends of Muhammed Ali and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner as well as infamous artists Dali and Andy Warhol. He traveled with Frank Sinatra and was at the 1972 Munich Olympics when the terrorist attacks occurred. His life was a work of art in itself, holding all the adventure, creativity, happiness, and horror of at least three lifetimes.
Neiman worked for Playboy for years, writing a feature called “Man At His Leisure” which ran for 15 years. He also created the enormously popular “Femlin” character, which was used in the magazine for over fifty years.
Neiman recently published his memoir, “All Told”, which tells all about his fascinating life and the people in it, and celebrated his 91st birthday on June 8th. He passed away of natural causes in a Manhattan hospital.