Artistic Legacy: Olympic Artist LeRoy Neiman, 91

I was sorry to learn of the death of LeRoy Neiman, 91, the Olympics and sports artist. He was the official painter of five Olympiads and was known for capturing action shots of sporting events. He died in New York.

His art was not confined to the Olympics, for which he was possibly best known, but also he captured the essence of the Super Bowl, the Grand National and the Cannes film festival.

He also painted famous sportsman such as the boxer Muhammad Ali. In 1972 Neiman sketched the world chess championship between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, live on television. In fact he often painted live on air allowing the audience to capture the moment as he saw it. Indeed, he was on hand to capture Federico Fellini directing “8 ½” and the Kirov Ballet performing in the Soviet Union.

In popularity, Neiman rivalled American favourites like Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses and Andrew Wyeth. The New York Times referred to him as ‘a prolific one-man industry,’ because he generated hundreds of paintings, drawings, watercolours, limited-edition serigraph prints and coffee-table books every year, earning gross annual revenue in the tens of millions of dollars.

In 2010 he had his right leg amputated after he was diagnosed with a vascular problem. Despite this he continued to paint and was quoted as saying in an interview with Associated Press “I’ve had a lucky life.”

He is survived by his wife Janet Byrne.

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