It is an unusual path, to say the least, from Playboy magazine to golf. Leroy Neiman, who died last year at the age of 91, was famous for this flamboyant painting style and vibrant use of colors. Neiman was one of the most famous illustrators of the 20th century and focused on sports illustrations including golf, baseball, football, cycling and basketball. His oeuvre in total covered more than two dozen different sports. He studied at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago and would go on to teach there as well. Neiman’s rise to fame began in the 1950s when he started doing illustrations for Playboy in his signature Abstract Expressionist style. Neiman’s works are in dozens of public museums and galleries around the world including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.
Neiman’s only book about golf was Big Time Golf (Donovan & Jerris N8290), published in 1992 and it highlights Neiman’s illustrations and painting related to golf. The large format book is 175 pages and includes 193 illustrations, 170 of which are full color plates.
Neiman had an expressive and colorful style. Big Time Golf includes illustrations of many players including Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo. Neiman traveled extensively and did many golf illustrations from around the world including several in Japan at Kawana and a Japanese driving range. Also included are illustrations of Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Augusta National, Oakmont and Baltusrol.
Neiman grew up in Minnesota and did not play golf growing up. He took up the game when he was stationed in Europe at the end of World War II. He is pictured in the book at Seminole, in Hawaii and in France and Japan. Neiman remained an active artist until the end of his life, his final painting was for the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012, which sold recently for $300,000. His work is still being sold by the publishing company he established. A Masters poster can be purchased for around $300. A 1995 limited edition, signed serigraph of Shinnecock Hills is selling for $3,675 and a 1982 of Cypress Point, $16,800.
Neiman’s artwork also adorns the dust jacket of The Wonderful World of Professional Golf by Mark McCormack.
It its obituary of Neiman last year the New York Times described him as a “dandy and bon vivant who looked luxuriant in his ear-to-ear mustache, white suits, flashy hats and Cuban cigars.”