LeRoy Neiman Dies: The Paintings That Defined His Amazing Career [PHOTOS]

 @CareyDrew2 on June 21 2012 9:50 AM

Prolific sports artist LeRoy Neiman, who painted everything from Olympiads to Kentucky Derby athletes and whose work appeared in Playboy magazine, died on Wednesday. He was 91. 

His New York-based publicist confirmed Neiman's death to the Associated Press, but no cause of death was given.

Neiman was best known for his brilliantly colored expressionist paintings and screen prints of athletes, musicians and sporting events, including Secretariat, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles and baseball great Ted Williams.

Defined by, among other things, his wide mustache and long cigar, Neiman was said to be an eccentric figure, whose work epitomized the style depicted in Playboy magazine.

Born LeRoy Runquist in St. Paul, Minn., Neiman served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he worked as a line cook until the end of the war. It was there that he developed his art skills by painting sets for Red Cross shows.

Upon his return to the homeland in 1946, Neiman did a brief stint at the St. Paul School of Art, then at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, all with help from the G.I. Bill.

In 1954, Neiman began his association with Playboy magazine, where he would meet Hugh Hefner. His contributions to the magazine over the next 50 years included his creation of the Femlin character for the Party Jokes page. He also did a feature for 15 years titled Man at His Leisure, an illustrations of his travels to exotic locations.

Neiman would go on to participate in globe-trotting expeditions for the magazine, covering the Olympic games and the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Kentucky Derby, championship boxing, PGA and the Masters golf tournament, among other events.

I've had a lucky life, Neiman told the AP in 2008. I've zeroed in on what you would call action and excellence. ... Everybody who does anything to try to succeed has to give the best of themselves, and art has made me pull the best out of myself.

Neiman was known as a generous patron of the arts. He donated large sums of money to groups and schools, including a 1995 donation of $6 million to Columbia University's School of the Arts, to endow the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, according to the New York Times.

Neiman is survived by his wife, Janet Byrne Neiman, whom he married in 1957.

Click Start to check out some of LeRoy Neiman's most famous paintings.

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