LEROY NEIMAN : THE SPORTS ARTIST
Neiman’s groundbreaking work has garnered countless international accolades and awards. However, to the general public, he is most widely known as the remarkable, entertaining artist who invented the genre of Contemporary Sport Art. The key turning points in this process were his appearances on live television painting athletes at the very moments that they were competing in the Olympics. Neiman produced artwork on screen, working from a blank canvas to a finished action painting, sporting his signature long handlebar mustache, often dressed in a jaunty hat, and smoking a cigar. No one had attempted to make fine art an onsite, real-time part of major media sports before. These displays brought art back to the forefront of sports events where the Olympics’ founder, Pierre de Coubertin, had insisted it belonged.
The demonstrations also created an indelible memory of Neiman for anyone who saw the colorful artist making his dynamic portraits of athletes. Worldwide, July 1972, millions of television viewers watched Neiman sketch Bobby Fischer competing against Boris Spassky at the world champion chess tournament in Iceland. In August and September 1972, ABC-TV broadcast Neiman drawing scenes live at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. He worked in a variety of fast media, including watercolor, chalk, pencil, charcoal, and felt-tip pens. Next, Neiman demonstrated his action painting for television during the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, at Lake Placid 1980, and in Sarajevo and Los Angeles 1984. Going high tech during the 1978 and1979 Super Bowls’ CNS-TV broadcasts, Neiman employed a computerized electronic pen to draw the sports events. He was honored as the official artist for the 1979 and 1980 Sports Spectaculars on CBS-TV. At the 1980 Democratic National Convention, Neiman was the official artist to record the historic event. In 1986, Neiman was chosen as the official artist for the Moscow Goodwill Games on Turner Broadcasting Network.
~ The American Sport Art Museum & Archives