Saturday, June 23, 2012

LeRoy Nieman, Son of St. Paul,

Has Smoked His Last Cigar


Frank Bowles, whose galleries exhibit the work of Neiman, writes:

It was with great sadness that I learned last night of the passing of my dear friend LeRoy Neiman.  Not only was LeRoy a great personal friend, he was a warm and generous collaborator with our galleries, who touched the lives of so many clients and staff that came to know him over the years.  He will be remembered and missed by us all. 
I first met LeRoy 37 years ago, and since that time we have been continuously exhibiting his work to the intense delight of his many fans here and abroad.  Over the years, LeRoy has attended innumerable opening nights with us, and believe me, he loved his public as much as they loved him.    LeRoy brought an extremely high level of energy to everything he did, and his presence at the gallery could generate excitement like nothing I’ve experienced before or since.  It was wonderful just to be in the same room as him.
The catalyst for this cherished relationship was obviously LeRoy’s important work as an artist.  He was active for many, many years and was a prolific creator, embracing and experimenting with a diverse spectrum of media.  His skill in capturing the spirit and energy of people and events was remarkable, filled with charm and wit, while resting firmly on an assured technical ability.  Not only a great artist, he became a cultural icon—instantly recognizable—with his trademark cigar and Clark Gable mustache, LeRoy was a true American original.  His personality sometimes outshone the bright colors in his paintings, but at heart, LeRoy was an artist who loved making art, and was driven by the creative impulse.
His association with Playboy magazine, his official affiliation with numerous sporting events, his friendships with luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali, all of these things put LeRoy at the epicenter of a great many exciting and important moments in world history.  As LeRoy watched the transformation of the American landscape in the second half of the 20th century, he was busy chronicling these often turbulent times with his keen, insightful eye and we are much the better for his efforts.  LeRoy Neiman was an exceptional American artist and will undoubtedly be recognized by history as such.
Not everyone knows it, but LeRoy Neiman was also a wonderful philanthropist.  Early in his career, LeRoy taught at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was also a student, and he continued to dedicate a significant amount of his considerable energy to fostering the next generation of young artists.  From youths at his LeRoy Neiman Center for the Arts here in San Francisco, to graduate students at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University in New York, LeRoy gave his time, his talent, and his money, so that the arts would thrive both now and in the future.
One of LeRoy Neiman’s greatest attributes was that he lived and painted according to his own rules.  LeRoy went his own way, staying true to himself, and he maintained his artistic integrity despite what the critics had to say.  He embodied a rugged individualism that strikes me as uniquely American, and I feel most privileged to have been, even in a small way, along for this incredible ride.  He was an icon, but also an iconoclast.  As Frank Sinatra once said, LeRoy did it his way, and we wouldn’t have had it any different.
LeRoy continued to produce beautiful work up until the time of his death.  His vibrant new memoir All Told, brings a lovely closure to his excellent career and life.  
We’ve had the honor of exhibiting and selling works from practically all of LeRoy Neiman’s many oeuvres.  His large acrylic and enamel paintings are as beloved and accomplished as his small-scale silkscreens.  I personally own a great number of his works and intend to continue collecting, exhibiting and selling the works of this remarkable man.  As his primary dealer, we shall continue to focus on his work and make it available to his legions of admirers.  We will miss LeRoy greatly, but as in life, so in death, we will honor his work and his legacy, and continue to share his art with the many people who are captivated by it.
Franklin Bowles

Son of St. Paul?

 From an excellent obit by the AP:

 St. Paul native LeRoy Neiman, whose art captured energy of sports, dies

Emphasis mine...

NEW YORK-- St. Paul native 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. He was 91.
Neiman was the official painter of five Olympiads and also was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine.
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, on live television.
He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.
Neiman's childhood was spent in St. Paul, where he grew up on Van Buren Av. He hung out on the periphery of the ballgames and brawl games in Frogtown and set bowling pins by hand in a downtown bowling alley.
"As soon as a snowstorm came, we took off up the hill to shovel the sidewalks of the wealthy people," Neiman once told a reporter.
His interest in art was nurtured by nuns at St. Vincent de Paul school. As a sixth-grader, he earned national honors for his portrait of a fish.
Neiman returned briefly to St. Paul after World War II but soon left to study and teach at the Art Institute in Chicago. His mother, Lydia, is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
A lost art
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 sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
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 preferred to think of himself 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."
But his critics said Neiman's forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist. At Playboy 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.
Neiman, a self-described workaholic who seldom took vacations and had no hobbies, worked daily in his New York City home that he shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Janet.

No comments: