Talented, popular, successful—what’s not to love about LeRoy Neiman? Plenty, according to art critics.
LeRoy Neiman was a colorful man, both figuratively and literally. His handlebar mustache, long cigar, and sketchpad were fixtures at the sidelines of American pop culture: from boxing matches to jazz clubs and political conventions. His paintings, sketches, and prints papered the second half of the 20th century, highlighting American icons in his colorful expressionist style. He was rich, famous, and adored by many Americans… but not the art critics.
Artist LeRoy Nieman was a fixture at the sidelines of American pop culture during the second half of the 20th century. From boxing matches to jazz clubs to political conventions, it was not uncommon to see his mustachioed face and long cigar in the crowd. His instantly recognizable renditions of athletes and celebrities have graced the pages of publications like Playboy, Time, and Sports Illustrated.
But while Neiman had all financial and popular success an artist could ever hope for, his work has been viewed far less favorably by critics.
This time on Sidedoor, join us on the artist’s 100th birthday to learn more about the colorful life and work of LeRoy Neiman. We’ll explore his splashy, star-studded oeuvre and ask: what makes a piece of art worthwhile… and who gets to decide?
- Eric Jentsch – Curator of sports and popular culture, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
- Heather Byrne Long – LeRoy Neiman’s niece
- LeRoy Neiman – Artist, philanthropist, and former instructor at School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Carol Becker – Professor of the Arts and Dean of Columbia University’s School of the Arts
- Ken Johnson – Painter and art critic
- Jerry Saltz – Senior art critic for New York Magazine
Links & Fun Stuff
- Discover the 18 jazz musicians featured in Neiman’s expansive painting “Big Band” with this two-part guide from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Read Ken Johnson’s full 2012 posthumous review of Neiman’s work in the New York Times and Carol Becker’s response piece.
- Neiman also received a more lighthearted roast from the art world in this 1985 piece from Sports Illustrated magazine.
- The impish “Fremlin” graced every edition of Playboy magazine for over fifty years. Learn more about Neiman’s pop-culture creation and see original drawings from the Franklin Bowles Gallery.
- Neiman and his art made cameos in several Rocky movies. Check out some of his paintings used in and inspired by the films.
- Take a deeper dive into Neiman’s biography by perusing his personal papers in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. Use the left side menu to browse the collection. Materials available online will have a blue icon.
- Do you love the color and vivacity of “Big Band?” Download free wallpaper of the iconic painting for your laptop, cellphone, or tablet from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
What does art mean to you? Should LeRoy Neiman be remembered as one of America’s great artists? Don your critic’s hat and share your thoughts with us on Twitter @SidedoorPod.
Be sure to tune in again next week, when we’ll meet the talented entertainer, producer, and club owner who became the first Puerto Rican to perform on Broadway.
Posted: 4 June 2021