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Painter LeRoy Neiman dies at 91

NEW YORK — Painter and sketch artist LeRoy Neiman, best known for evoking the kinetic energy of the world's biggest sporting and leisure events with bright, quick strokes, died Wednesday at age 91.

Neiman was the official painter of five Olympiads and was a contributing artist at Playboy magazine for many years. His publicist confirmed his death at a Manhattan hospital but didn't disclose the cause.

Neiman was a media-savvy artist who knew how to enthrall audiences with his instant renditions of what he observed. In 1972, he sketched the world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a live television audience. He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.

"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life," Neiman said in a June 2008 interview with the Associated Press. "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's paintings, many executed in household enamel paints, are an explosion in reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows of pure kinetic energy.

He has been described as an American impressionist, but the St. Paul, Minn., native preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.

He worked in many media, producing thousands of etchings, lithographs and silk-screen prints known as serigraphy.

Neiman was fascinated with large game animals and said he twice traveled to Kenya to paint lions and elephants in his trademark vibrant palette.

But it was the essence of a basketball or football game, swim meet or cycling event that captured his imagination most.

"For an artist, watching a (Joe) Namath throw a football or a Willie Mays hit a baseball is an experience far more overpowering than painting a beautiful woman or leading political figure," Neiman said in 1972.

Neiman was a World War II veteran who took part in the invasion of Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was a self-described workaholic who worked daily in his home studio at the Hotel des Artistes near Central Park.

His works are in the permanent collections of many private and public museums. Neiman selected the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to house his archives.

Neiman is survived by his wife of 55 years, Janet Byrne Neiman.

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