“It’s been fun, I’ve had a lucky life…”
– LeRoy Neiman
We started off our Winter session with inspiration from the American artist, LeRoy Neiman who was born on June 8, 1921 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father, Charles Runquist, an unskilled laborer, abandoned the family, and his mother, Lydia (Serline) Runquist remarried and LeRoy took the surname of his stepfather. He was raised in a rough blue-collar neighborhood and LeRoy described himself as a “street kid.”
He attended a Roman Catholic primary school, where he was always drawing pictures. Starting in adolescence he earned money from local grocers by painting images of fruit, vegetables and meat as sale items, and portraits of the shopkeepers themselves on the windows of their stores.
In 1942, Neiman quit school and enlisted in the United States Army. While serving as a cook for four years, with two years of combat in Europe, he painted murals in military kitchens and dining halls. He also painted stage sets for Red Cross shows under the auspices of the army’s Special Services division. “If nothing else, the army completely confirmed me as an artist, ”.
Following the war, Neiman studied briefly at St. Paul School of Art and then at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago completing his studies in 1950. He taught there for 10 years and in 1957, he married Janet Byrne, a student at the school.
Neiman grew famous thanks to television. Beginning in 1972, Neiman was the official artist of five Olympiads. On camera and viewed by tens of millions of people, Neiman sketched out and completed al fresco paintings of the action and competition. The television appearances turned Neiman into a media showman, with his expansive handlebar mustache and ever-present Cuban cigar.
He died in New York, June 20, 2012 at the age of 91