NEW YORK - Reuters
The photo on the right shows Neiman as he sketches a picture of singer Cher at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. AFP photo
LeRoy Neiman, whose distinctive, vibrantly colored paintings of sports figures and athletic events made him as famous as many of the athletes he drew, died on June 20 at age 91.
Neiman, a showman known for his handlebar mustache, sometimes painted live on television during major events such as the Olympics and the Super Bowl, helping make him one of the world’s most commercially successful contemporary artists.
Among his subjects were boxing’s Muhammad Ali, former New York Jets football star Joe Namath and baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.
Neiman had just published his memoirs, “All Told,” which came out days before his 91st birthday on June 8. “He had a happy birthday. He was so happy to see his memoir published,” said Gail Parenteau, his publicist. She said he died at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan of natural causes. He had been hospitalized there in 2010 with vascular problems that required life-saving surgery to remove his right leg above the knee, she said.
Latest work on display the day he died
By coincidence, his latest work, a multicolored golf ball 1.2 meters in diameter and completed in April, went on display in Chicago on June 20, said his archivist, Tara Zabor.
Neiman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 8, 1921, and was of Turkish and Swedish descent “as near as I can figure out,” according to his official website.
He became a contributing artist for Playboy magazine in the 1950s and established a friendship with its founder, Hugh Hefner, one of many famous friends including Frank Sinatra and Ali. He painted about a dozen portraits of Ali, Zabor said, befriending the boxer when he was still known as Cassius Clay.
Neiman was named official artist of the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo in 1980 and 1984 and the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, cementing his image as a painter of athletic themes.