Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




Leroy Neiman Holds a Special Place in Sports History

Posted on June 23, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Leroy Neiman's style and persona were both one-of-a-kind.

It is one thing to artistically capture an event, person or a moment with the assistance of a camera, but it is a completely different endeavor to try and articulate a moment using a paint brush and canvas. Arguably, no one has ever quite captured great sports moments and athletes with the same flair and style as Leroy Neiman, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 91.

If you followed sports in the 1970s, it is likely you have instant visual recognition both of Neiman’s colorful paintings and of his flashy personal style including his one-of-a-kind mustache and flamboyant attire. In an era where colors and flash were in style, Neiman was a perfect fit.

The official painter for five Olympiads, a long-time contributor to Playboy magazine, if it was a big event during the 1970s, it is likely that Neiman was there with his paints, canvas and stogie. His one-site work provided instant permanency to events from Super Bowls to World Series to boxing matches. His appearance in Rocky II gave instant credibility to a fictional story.

Neiman was on the sidelines creating his unique art for many big games, including Super Bowl XXVIII.

Art experts liked to describe Neiman’s fast-moving strokes as being American impressionist, but he simply liked to consider himself as an American artist.

Regardless of the official label, I think you can best describe Neiman’s work as important pieces of American history. I am sure there will never be another artist quite like Leroy Neiman. May he rest in peace.

This painting from Super Bowl III is just one of many great works Neiman created during iconic sports moments.


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