NEW YORK-- St. Paul native 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. He was 91.
Neiman was the official painter of five Olympiads and also was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine.
His longtime publicist Gail Parenteau confirmed his death Wednesday 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, on live television.
He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.
Neiman's childhood was spent in St. Paul, where he grew up on Van Buren Av. He hung out on the periphery of the ballgames and brawl games in Frogtown and set bowling pins by hand in a downtown bowling alley.
"As soon as a snowstorm came, we took off up the hill to shovel the sidewalks of the wealthy people," Neiman once told a reporter.
His interest in art was nurtured by nuns at St. Vincent de Paul school. As a sixth-grader, he earned national honors for his portrait of a fish.
Neiman returned briefly to St. Paul after World War II but soon left to study and teach at the Art Institute in Chicago. His mother, Lydia, is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
A lost art
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 sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Neiman's paintings, many executed in household enamel paints that allowed the artist his fast-moving strokes, are an explosion in reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows of pure kinetic energy.
He has been described as an American impressionist, but preferred to think of himself 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."
But his critics said Neiman's forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist. At Playboy he created Femlin, the well-endowed nude that has graced the magazine's Party Jokes page since 1957.
Neiman shrugged off such criticism. "I can easily ignore my detractors and feel the people who respond favorably," he said.
Neiman, a self-described workaholic who seldom took vacations and had no hobbies, worked daily in his New York City home that he shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Janet.