CelebVet: LeRoy Neiman, Artist & Army Vet

LeRoy Nieman

Best known for his brilliantly colored and energetic images of sporting events, from basketball, boxing, billiards, and hockey to gymnastics, shot put, swimming, and cycling, LeRoy Neiman is one of the most recognized American artists of the 20th century. He paints spontaneously at the scene in an impressionistic style that is uniquely his own but reminiscent of the action paintings of the Abstract Expressionists.

From 1960s through the 1980s, Mr. Neiman was very much in demand, and became famously successful. He was a contributing artist for Playboy magazine. He was the official artist at five Olympiads. He was often a familiar figure at professional games and meets. “Often, Neiman’s mere presence at an event overshadows it,” wrote Pat Jordan in Sports Illustrated in January 1975. Once, “at a poor showing of the New York Jets one Sunday in Shea Stadium, fans began to yell, ‘Put LeRoy in!’”

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1927, he quit school and enlisted in the Army in 1942, serving as a cook for four years, with two years of combat in the European Theatre. Of that time he wrote in his book, LeRoy Neiman: Art and Life Style, “If nothing else, the Army completely confirmed me as an artist. During this period I made my crucial discovery of the difference between the lifestyles of the officer and the PFC. This was to become the basis of my later mission in art, to investigate life’s social strata from the workingman to the multimillionaire.”

Mr. Neiman’s works are in the permanent collections of both the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame, and in such museums as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Portland Museum of Art, the Museo de Bellas Artes en Caracas, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Image Credit: Franklin Bowles Gallery: http://www.franklinbowlesgallery.com/leroy-neiman/

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