Leroy Neiman was born of Turkish and Swedish parent on June 8, 1927. He took the surname of one of his stepfathers. He grew up in a St. Paul, Minnesota neighborhood where he earned money from local grocers by painting calcimine (a mixture of zinc oxide, glue, and water with pigment) images of fruit, vegetables and meat as sales items. As a high school student, he created posters for school dances and athletic events. In 1942, Neiman quit high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army. While serving as a cook he painted murals in military kitchens and dining halls. He also painted stage sets for Red Cross shows.
The “spirit” of Da Vinci and Rubens, the “space” of Tintoretto and the “feel” of Fragonard all influenced” Neiman’s early works. He was greatly influenced by the abstract expressionists, especially Jackson Pollack, who was also one of the first artists to experiment with serigraphs.
He was awarded first prize in the Twin City show for an oil painting, “Idle Boats,” in 1953. He had his first solo shows in galleries in Chicago and Lincoln, Illinois that same year. In 1957, one of his paintings was included in the “American 25th Biennial Exhibition”. For 15 years beginning in 1958, he was a contributing artist and writer for “Man at His Leisure” in Playboy magazine. In 1961 he won a gold medal at the Salon d’Art Moderne, in Paris. He has had solo exhibitions at the Minnesota Museum of Arts, St. Paul; University of Texas, El Paso; Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela; and the New State Tretyakov Museum in Moscow. In 1981 he and Andy Warhol had a two-man exhibition at the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art. He is in the permanent collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The majority of Neiman’s body of work deals with sports: golf, basketball, boxing, billiards, hockey, football, baseball, gymnastics, swimming, cycling, bullfights, boxing, auto racing, polo, ballet, sailing (Americas Cup), chess (Fisher and Spassky Championship, 1972) and The Olympic Games (1972 Munich, 1976 Montreal, 1980 Lake Placid, 1984 Sarajevo and Los Angeles).
Neiman’s use of vivid tones evokes a phenomenon of change and dynamism. Up close, his paintings appear abstract. From a distance, they become articulated into a more realistic imagery. He accomplishes this with fast moving strokes, which give the impression of action. His use of vivid color electrifies his paintings and serigraphs.
Each year for more than a quarter century, he has produced limited edition serigraphs. By his own account he is a workaholic, taking no vacations and having no hobbies. He lives with his wife in a double high studio in the Hotel des Artistes, a landmark in New York City. Leroy Neiman is considered today one of the most important American artists of the 20th century.
Through the years he has donated scores of his artwork to charitable organizations and in 1995 he gave the School of the Arts at Columbia University a gift of 6 million to create the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies.