Sports artist LeRoy Neiman dies

St. Paul native LeRoy Neiman, known for capturing the high action of the world of sports with his paintbrush, has died. He was 91.

Neiman was known for his bold use of colors, and for his equally colorful life.

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Artist LeRoy Nieman signs autographs at the 100 Days to Vancouver Celebration on November 4, 2009 at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Nieman, a native of St. Paul, Minn., died June 20, 2012 at age 91 in New York.

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USOC

Born LeRoy Runquist in St. Paul, Neiman would later describe himself as a “street kid” growing up in a rough blue-collar neighborhood. An excerpt of his biography on his website details his youth:

He attended a Roman Catholic primary school, where, he told Max Millard for the New York City Westside TV Shopper (January 27-February 2, 1979), he “was always drawing pictures and getting special treatment… showing off, copping out of other things.” During recess periods he would inscribe pen-and-ink tattoos on his classmates’ arms. A painting of a fish that he made in sixth grade won a prize in a national art competition. Starting in adolescence he earned money from local grocers by painting calcimine images of fruit, vegetables and meat as sale items, and portraits of the shopkeepers themselves on the windows of their stores. As a high school student, he created posters for school dances and athletic events. He participated in boxing matches in the basement of his church, which started a lifetime interest in prize fighting.

Neiman briefly attended the St. Paul School of Art before moving to the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. After serving in the army he returned to the institute to teach for a decade. In the 1950s and ’60s his artwork appeared regularly in Playboy magazine, in a series called “Man at His Leisure.”

Neiman also had his turn as a film star, appearing in four of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies as the ring announcer.

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LeRoy Neiman’s painting of Secretariat

Neiman’s autobiography “All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies, and Provocateurs,” was published earlier this month.

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