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LeRoy Neiman

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As a portraitist, Neiman does not attempt to delve much beyond the surface. "When I paint, I seriously consider the public presence of a person--the surface facade," he wrote in Art and Life Style. "I am less concerned with how people look when they wake up or how they act at home. A person's public presence reflects his own efforts at image development." In adopting that approach, Neiman has been praised for capturing both the essentials and the idiosyncratic characteristics of his subjects. Among hundreds of other famous people, he has painted the boxer Muhammad Ali (many times over a span of 15 years, beginning in 1964); the conductor Leonard Bernstein; the dancer Suzanne Farrell; and, on commission, the hockey star Bobby Hull, for the March 1, 1968 cover of Time magazine; Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, and Sammy Davis Jr., in performance at the Royal Albert Hall, in London; Tom Seaver and Reggie Jackson, for the Baseball Hall of Fame; and Sylvester Stallone, in pictures--including one measuring 15 feet by 24 feet--for several of the actor's Rocky films. (Neiman appeared as himself in the films in cameo roles.) In 1995 he created 40-foot-high murals of the dancer-choreographer Tommy Tune for a New York City theatre.

Hundreds of works by Neiman appear in his nine books, which, in addition to Art and Life Style, are Horses (1979); LeRoy Neiman Posters (1980); Carnaval (1981); Winners (1983), which was published in Japanese in 1985; Monte Carlo Chase (1988); Big Time Golf (1992); LeRoy Neiman, An American in Paris (1994); and LeRoy Neiman On Safari (1997). Each year for the past quarter-century, he has created at least eight limited-edition serigraphs (silkscreen prints). According to an article in Manhattan (Winter 1995-96), the more than 150,000 Neiman prints that have been purchased to date "have an estimated market value exceeding $400 million."

By his own account, LeRoy Neiman works very hard, has no hobbies, and does not take vacations. He paints in a double-height studio in the Hotel des Artistes, a landmark New York City building across the street from one of his favorite subjects--Central Park. In the same building he maintains an office; a penthouse pied-a-terre; and an apartment that he shares with his best friend--his wife, the former Janet Byrne, whom he married on June 22, 1957. His archives, which he is currently assembling for preservation at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., are also kept there. His signature black handlebar mustache and luxuriant slicked-back hair are now peppered with gray, and he is seldom photographed without his trademark prop, a long cigar. Described by Malcolm Lein as quiet and warm, for many years he cultivated a reputation as a flamboyant man-about-town. "I like being outrageous. . . ," he acknowledged to Pete Dexter for Esquire (July 1984). "I don't actually do anything, except be conspicuous. It keeps me revved up." In the New Yorker (February 5, 1979), he was quoted as saying, "My performance is part of my success." -- You're definitely a success, Mr. Neiman.

A member of the New York City Advisory Commission for Cultural Affairs since 1995, Neiman has received four honorary degrees and, among other honors, an Award of Merit from the American Athletic Union (1976), a Gold Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement (1977), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Muscular Dystrophy Association (1986).