To some people, LeRoy Neiman will be better known as the popular artist who helped capture and immortalize moments from five different Olympiads and painted portraits of dozens of notable athletes over the years. Here's a sampling of his work. Chances are you've seen one or 10 of these somewhere.
And there is no mistaking that he was a talented artist. Sylvester Stallone sure thought so, which is why he had him produce exclusive art for the Rocky franchise starting in 1981. He did the painting above, of Rocky and Apollo Creed, which was featured in the end credits for Rocky III, as well as this Stallone portrait, perhaps his best-known work. But for a generation hooked on cheesy sports films of the '80s, Neiman was a fixture not just with his brush but also his acting, as Stallone cast him as a ring announcer in Rocky III, IV, and V. (Neiman also made a cameo appearance in Rocky Balboa.)
Here's how the AP encapsulates his legacy:
He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.
Neiman's "reportage of history and the passing scene ... revived an almost lost and time-honored art form," according to a 1972 exhibit catalog of the artist's Olympics sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
"It's been fun. I've had a lucky life," Neiman said in a June 2008 interview with The Associated Press. "I've zeroed in on what you would call action and excellence. ... 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 that allowed the artist his fast-moving strokes, 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.
Neiman was 91 years old.