Born in 1927 in St. Paul, Minnesota, LeRoy Neiman didn’t consider art as a possible profession until the 1940’s, after he enjoyed minor celebrity with his fellow GIs for some murals he painted in a series of mess halls. Following his Army service, he returned to the United States in 1946, and developed his artistic talent through formal education at the St. Paul Art Center (now the Minnesota Museum of Art) and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Two seminal influences in Neiman’s career developed during his time in Chicago. The first was his appearance at sporting events, where he would paint or draw the athletes, the coaches and the competitions. Secondly, through his friendship with a publisher named Hugh Hefner, he began to regularly contribute original artwork to a controversial new magazine called Playboy. LeRoy Neiman’s long and fruitful association with Playboy was the springboard for some of his most distinguished work. From the 1950’s through the 1970’s, he traveled around the world “on assignment” from Playboy, chronicling the liveliest aspects of society and sport. He created a body of paintings for the “Man of Leisure” series that would later become known as the renowned “Playboy Collection.” As other major publications took to featuring his work and through his association with ABC Television as the official artist for three successive Olympics, LeRoy Neiman achieved an unprecedented level of popularity with the public.
Neiman lives and works in New York City, continuing to paint with the sense of energy, wit and good humor that first brought him attention. For decades, he has delighted charmed viewers with the drama of people at play. It is testament to his inimitable nerve and style that LeRoy Neiman’s appeal has not flagged and a suggestion that art history books will recognize him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.