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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 130


This is the grave of LeRoy Neiman.

Born in 1921 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Neiman had a rough upbringing. His father walked out when he was young. His mother married and divorced and then married again. He joined the Army in World War II. Already a talented artist, when he returned, he attended the St. Paul School of Art and then used the GI Bill to attend The Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduating, he was instantly hired by The Art Institute and taught there for a decade. He put his art in competition and won prizes. He got to know Hugh Hefner, who is somehow still alive, and his work began appearing in Playboy in 1954, which I understand is why most people began reading the magazine. But what made Neiman famous was his paintings of sporting events. He became perhaps the first major painter to focus on American sports and painted boxing matches, the Olympics, the NFL, and many other sporting events. Here are a couple of examples.

It’s possible this is the greatest relevance a Jets-Dolphins game has ever had.

Here’s a painting of Muhammad Ali.

And here’s the Opening Ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, an event which LA is unfortunate enough to have to repeat in 2028.

He made a lot of money on these works. He used a good bit of it to support poor kids who wanted to be artists, remembering his own past. Neiman worked until the end of his life in 2010, when he died of a heart problem.

LeRoy Neiman is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

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