Olympic artist LeRoy Neiman dies at 91

Posted: June 22, 2012

NEW YORK - LeRoy Neiman, 91, 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.

Mr. Neiman also was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine for many years and official painter of five Olympiads. His publicist confirmed his death Wednesday but did not disclose the cause.

A media-savvy artist, Mr. Neiman 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 television audience.

He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.

"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life," Mr. Neiman said in a June 2008 interview. "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."

Mr. 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.

"For an artist, watching a [Joe] Namath throw a football or a Willie Mays hit a baseball is an experience far more overpowering than painting a beautiful woman or leading political figure," he said in 1972.

Mr. Neiman has been described as an American impressionist, but the St. Paul, Minn., native preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.

With his sketchbook and pencil, trademark handlebar mustache, and slicked-back hair, Mr. Neiman was instantly recognizable.

At a New York Jets game at Shea Stadium in 1975, fans yelled, "Put LeRoy in," when the play wasn't going their way.

Mr. Neiman was a self-described workaholic who had no hobbies. He worked daily in his New York City home studio at the Hotel des Artistes near Central Park that he shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Janet.

"What else am I good for?" he said in 2008. "I don't think about anything else."

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