LeRoy Neiman, the painter and sketch artist best known for evoking the kinetic energy of the world's biggest sporting and leisure events with bright, quick strokes, died Wednesday at age 91.
Neiman also was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine for many years and official painter of five Olympiads. His longtime publicist Gail Parenteau confirmed his death but didn't disclose the cause.
Neiman was a media-savvy artist who knew how to enthrall audiences with his instant renditions of what he observed. In 1972, he sketched the world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a live television audience.
Neiman's "reportage of history and the passing scene . . . revived an almost lost and time-honored art form," according to a 1972 exhibit catalog of the artist's Olympics sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life," Neiman said in a June 2008 interview. "I've zeroed in on what you would call action and excellence. . . . Everybody who does anything to try to succeed has to give the best of themselves, and art has made me pull the best out of myself."
Neiman's paintings, many executed in household enamel paints that allowed the artist his fast-moving strokes, are an explosion in bright colors of pure kinetic energy.
He has been described as an American impressionist, but the St. Paul, Minn., native preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.
"I don't know if I'm an impressionist or an expressionist," he told the AP. "You can call me an American first. . . . [but] I've been labeled doing neimanism, so that's what it is, I guess."
He worked in many medium, producing thousands of etchings, lithographs and silk-screen prints known as serigraphy.
His works are in the permanent collections of many private and public museums. But his critics said Neiman's forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist.
Neiman shrugged off such criticism.
He was a self-described workaholic who seldom took vacations and had no hobbies. He worked daily in his Manhattan home studio at the Hotel des Artistes near Central Park that he shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Janet.
And, over the years, he endowed a number of institutions, donating $6 million in 1995 for the creation of the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University, and $3 million to his alma mater, the Art Institute of Chicago, where he taught for a decade.
He also donated $1 million to create a permanent home for Arts Horizons, a community art center in Harlem.