LeRoy Neiman – Ali, 1979
Colored Pencil on Fine Art Paper
Size: 11 x 14 inches 20 3/8 x 23 Framed
Certificate of Authenticity included
Celebrated for the unique blend of Pop Art sensibility and expressionistic brushwork and vibrant colors, the painter LeRoy Neiman is an undisputed champion of the sports art. Throughout his long and prolific career, the artist captured the likeness of a range of sports legends, including Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. Neiman was especially drawn to the image and personality of Muhammad Ali, whom he once described as “the athlete of the century”.
The artist first met Ali in 1962 in the St. Nicholas Arena in New York City, before he defeated Billy Daniels. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship that lasted a lifetime. Throughout his career, Neiman would often sketch and paint Ali in both training and at his major fights around the world. “He was fast with his rhetoric and swift with his fists,” the artist once recalled.
This 1979 drawing is an exquisitely rare rendering of the famous boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Bursting with color and vitality, it brings to life the prized fighter who remains admired and respected for his accomplishments in the boxing ring and beyond. Ali is depicted with a calm look, placed against a background of red, blue and yellow. Only using colored pencils, Neiman managed to capture the boundless energy the fighter was known for.
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About LeRoy Neiman
Named the most popular artist in the United States, LeRoy Neiman was best known for his vibrantly colored, dynamic depictions of sports and entertainment. This painter of “the good life” had the unprecedented skill to capture a figure in motion, while his genre scenes appealed to the broad public. He saw himself as an illustrator, even rather than a painter, while the pleasant moments from the everyday life he painted in a realistic manner.
Fusing action painting techniques with Pop Art and Impressionist and Expressionist elements, Neiman emerged as a master of color. He often used clean, unmixed nuances while his highly recognizable, brilliant palette developed. The color was his way of enhancing the experience, the scents, and feelings of the chosen subject.
LeRoy Neiman started his professional career in the 1950s during “the magazine era”, and subsequently created illustrations for many magazines. The most notable one of the publications holding his illustrations is Playboy, but his work was featured in Sports Illustrated and Harpers as well.
As the creator of vivid chronicles of the American life, Neiman became increasingly and widely popular, even though he was never fully accepted by the ‘haute’ critics, comparing him to Norman Rockwell. Nevertheless, he never ceased to work in the way he saw as best, captivating audiences with his skill, even painting on television! His works were exhibited at the Hammer Galleries in New York and the Franklin Bowles Gallery in San Francisco among other venues.
Although fame brought him immense wealth, Neiman - a child of the Great Depression, lived frugally. At the same time, he was very generous, having donated almost $20 million to different art institutions around the country. This “American Impressionist” also served as the official artist of 5 Olympic Games, and he painted many prestigious sporting events, from the Kentucky Derby to America’s Boxing Cup and Super Bowl. Among his portrait subjects, we can find many celebrities, politicians and influential figures from different areas.
LeRoy Neiman was born as LeRoy Runquist on June 8, 1921, in St. Paul, MN. He attended St. Paul School of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago after he completed military service. He lived in New York City, where he died on June 20, 2012, at the age of 91.