One of the most recognizable artists of the 20th century, Leroy Neiman boldly captured the American spirit with his colorful canvases depicting athletes, public figures, big game animals, and popular sports. With an oeuvre that appealed to both the aesthetics of Pop and Expressionistic art, Neiman injected his canvases and prints with a stunning sense of bravado – whether depicting a horse race, a night of leisure, a beast of prey, or a football game.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1921, Neiman went on to serve in the army during World War II, where his painting skills were recognized despite his role as a cook. Upon returning to the states in 1926, he began his training at the St. Paul Gallery and School of Art, later studying on the G.I. Bill at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where he eventually served on the faculty for a decade. In 1954 he started to work as an illustrator for Playboy Magazine, one of the most famous associations of his career after meeting Hugh Hefner through the Carson Pirie Scott department store, where both men were creative freelancers. Neiman went on to create the iconic cartoon figure the ‘Fremlin’ for Playboy’s party jokes section, and to illustrate his international travels for over fifty years.
Leroy Neiman’s work was far-reaching. For decades, he painted for major cultural institutions and sporting events all over the world, such as the Grand Prix at Monaco, numerous Super Bowls, the Kentucky Derby, boxing matches, the ballet, and dozens of large scale murals commissioned by the Playboy Club and national museums. Not merely a celebrated and widely exhibited artist, Neiman was also an incredibly charitable one. Both Columbia University and the Art Institute of Chicago bear facilities with his name, and for years he sponsored programs catering to underprivileged youth throughout the United States. Neiman died in New York City at the age of 91 in 2012, yet his work remains as fresh and exciting in the hands of present-day collectors and connoisseurs.
Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery is thrilled to be offering two works by the artist, ‘The Finish’ & ‘Robert F. Kennedy,’ during their three-day sale spanning furniture, decorative arts, architectural elements, lighting and fine art. One of the more iconic Neiman-esque scenes, ‘The Finish’ is a signed and numbered serigraph depicting the final stretch of a horse race three jockeys deep. Energetically bold, this work is pure Leroy Neiman, and offers a stark contrast to the more subtle tones of ‘Robert F. Kennedy’, a subdued etching depicting a sensitive yet intellectual portrait of the late political figure. Kennedy appears mid-sentence and the white space is filled with writings taken from Kennedy’s own speeches. This particular work, and its subsequent editions, were given the blessing of Ethel Kennedy, a consideration that speaks volumes to this vibrant and gentlemanly American artist. We invite you to view these and other great contemporary artworks in the online catalogue for June 11 and 12, 2016 as part of our upcoming three-day sale.