Painter LeRoy Neiman dies at 91

Artist had deep ties to Chicago

June 21, 2012

Anthony Martinez

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
LeRoy Neiman with his portrait of Muhammad Ali.

Artist LeRoy Neiman, who has deep ties to Chicago, died Wednesday at the age of 91. Neiman’s paintings of sporting events, athletes, and entertainers captured the energy and beauty of the body in motion using bold colors and Impressionist strokes.

Neiman’s career in Chicago began at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduating, he joined the faculty of the school where he taught for 10 years.

After leaving the school, Neiman kept teaching master classes and gave more than $9 million in donations, making him the school’s single largest alumnus donor.

School President Walter Massey said Neiman’s legacy goes beyond financial gifts.

“One of the things I was most impressed [by] was his passion for students and his history of inclusiveness,” Massey said.

He credited Neiman’s dedication to working with diverse students and colleagues to time spent in Chicago’s dynamic, multicultural art world.

“If you see his paintings and works of Muhammad Ali and others, it was just a world he was part of. It seemed to be natural to him,” Massey said.

In honor of Neiman’s dedication to the arts, the School of the Art Institute recently opened the LeRoy Neiman Center downtown, which is home the artist’s single largest mural, Summertime Along the Indiana Dunes.

While in Chicago, Neiman also contributed illustrations and paintings to Playboy Magazine which was then based out of the city. His assignments with the magazine were his first steps into the vividly colored coverage of global sports and lifestyles for which he’s now famous.

Neiman went on to become one of his generation’s most prolific and wealthy artists, but never won the same level of acclaim among critics.