June 20, 2012

"Maybe the critics are right... But what am I supposed to do about it — stop painting, change my work completely?"

"I go back into the studio, and there I am at the easel again. I enjoy what I’m doing, and feel good working. Other thoughts are just crowded out."


The Crack Emcee said...

LeRoy Neiman was a good artist. Fuck the critics:

Like Norman Rockwell, he made them into the poseurs they are.

They couldn't do it,..

Paul Brinkley said...

He should factor in the critics' opinion and then decide how he wants to paint after that. Hey look, that's exactly what he did.

He made a great living off of it, so it sounds like that's what works. In his case, at least.

RIP, Mr. Neiman.

Paul Kirchner said...

I hate his stuff but envy his career. Sounds like he had a blast.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"Their arguments all follow a pattern: 'Look, gentlemen, why don't you face up to the fact that a social revolution has occurred in the United States in the last several decades. No jeremaids, no melancholy post-mortems are going to change this. Social security, farm parities, progressive income taxes, withering state borders, powerful unions -- all these are here to stay. Why not acknowledge them and formulate a constructive* [this word is underlined in the original so go check it out] alternative to the Democratic Platform, an alternative which...'"

B. Buckley "Too Much To Take" Human Events July 18th, 1951.

wyo sis said...

He loved his art, he was well paid, people loved it. What's the problem? Critics seem to think if it's popular it must be bad. The idea that only certain people are qualified to judge what is or isn't art is nonsense. Of course, critics love to do it, they're well paid and some people love what they do, so maybe they're artists too?

kcom said...

Completely off topic but I just noticed there's a movie playing on TCM right now called "Our vines have tender grapes". The description: Pleasures and problems of a Scandinavian farming community in Wisconsin. Starring Edward G. Robinson.

edutcher said...

You knew his work immediately and, although I'm not crazy about that style, I agree with the Gray Lady's estimation of it as "kinetic".

If that's what made him happy, so be it.

Coldstream said...

My first experience with Leroy Nieman stems from the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker film "Top Secret"

German Colonel: They're still working on him. He won't break. We've tried everything! Do you want me to bring out the Leroy Nieman paintings?

German General: No. We cannot risk violating the Geneva Convention!

Guildofcannonballs said...

Well then.

If that didn't get you to go there, and by there is here intended to mean a decent enough collection of William F. Buckley Jr.'s written works, according to them, then this shall certainly be:

"For in the last year or so, confident no doubt that there is little left to be said with respect to how this country ought to be run, our restless and expansive collectivists have wandered afield, this time to ravish us in the inner sanctity of our boudoirs: ...""


coketown said...

I thought the excerpt was talking about Grace Slick. She paints now, you know. Her photo on Wikipedia makes her look thoroughly domesticated.

Anyway, Wilde had a few words concerning artists and critics and such.

bagoh20 said...

If he enjoyed creating it, and others fed on it and smiled, then great life, man.

He did it himself, without using people, or riding some wave of pompous pretension. He was simply enjoyed. That's art.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Anybody who ever enjoyed Playboy enjoyed Nieman. I think the confusion is that middle brow is supposed to be burgherly, in MacWhorter's phrase about Romney recently. Then again maybe the burgher turns. That wascally racist is hard to predict.

Balfegor said...

Never heard of him before. Looked on Google Images. He has a consistent style, but his paintings vary wildly in how palatable I find them. I think the differentiating point is composition and contrast -- in some, the colours are just too busy and all the same intensity, so the overall image is kind of flat. In others, especially, for some reason, his baseball paintings, there's a clearer contrast, more defined colour masses in the composition, and the overall effect is appealing.

On the other hand, if he modeled himself on Toulouse-Lautrec, it's no wonder I find him highly uneven. Toulouse-Lautrec is, in my opinion, one of the most absurdly over-rated artists in history. Just look at this. This always get's talked up as some kind of masterwork, but what on earth is supposed to be going on with the left arm of the man in the foreground? Cloth doesn't wrinkle like that! And that pose isn't stylised or distorted for effect. It's just lazy draftsmanship.

Guildofcannonballs said...


Same beat.

Palladian said...

It's funny how many so-called rational conservatives get all "if it feels good, do it!" and "who are you to judge?" when assessing a (assumedly) sympathetic mediocrity like Neiman.

Neiman was a dreadful painter, a flaccid technician, a fount of cliches and terrible ideas and an all-around whore who didn't even have sense enough to know that the cheaper whores were a better deal.

I do admire his business acumen. If he has a legacy, it's business, not art. See Warhol, Andy for someone who was good at both.

Toulouse-Lautrec was a brilliant designer who, like his better contemporaries, successfully synthesized and integrated the aesthetics of Japanese graphic work (woodcuts, mostly) and 19th century European sensibilities. To compare Toulouse-Lautrec with Neiman is laughable.

And comparing Neiman to Norman Rockwell is laughable as well. Although Rockwell's conceptual programs were not particularly interesting, and he didn't seem particularly interested in expanding the scope of his work past the realm of (very high-quality) illustration, he was a superb technician and illustrator, the likes of which Leroy Neiman couldn't have approached in his wildest dreams.

Darrell said...

There are some works of Leroy Neiman that I would actually hang on my walls. That is all that needs to be said.

An artist should please his/herself and not pay attention to the "critics." He developed his own unique style and that put him about 95% of his competitors. Were others better? Who the Hell cares. Should we ban new art because the good stuff has already been done?
That's absurd.

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Palladian said...

It's funny how many so-called rational conservatives get all "if it feels good, do it!" and "who are you to judge?" when assessing a (assumedly) sympathetic mediocrity like Neiman.

Maybe because what he did created no illegitimate babies, didn't spread VD, didn't help create and expand a pernicious drug culture, and didn't foster an a fiscally disastrous entitlement mentality.

He made money because (some) people liked his stuff. He harmed no one (except maybe Palladian's sense of aesthetics).

This is bad?

Quaestor said...

My first experience with Leroy Nieman stems from the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker film "Top Secret"

An underrated film that made a lot of jokes out of cheap Hollywood tricks.

I always found his work to be a bit tiring. The really great paintings seem to invite endless study, but a Neiman has a shelf-life -- after a while it gets stale. Maybe that's because his works throw themselves at you, muscling aside the environment yelling "Look out! Comin' through!" with the force of the subject magnified in scale, the use of color as a blunt instrument. He did capture the energy of the moment in a way unequaled by other expressionists, that is undoubtedly true, but sport, and life generally, is more than that, and Neiman left out that part. When there's a recognizable face (rarely, Neiman people wear helmets, goggles, caps pulled low) it doesn't say much. There's no biography. Neiman relied on the culture to fill in those details -- there's Joe Namath! there's Brooks Robinson! faces and lives we know from Sports Iluustrated and The Game of the Week -- otherwise nothing.

Robert Cook said...

Neiman's work is superficial and decorative and doesn't bear prolonged meditation, perhaps, but it's bright and fun and inextricably a reflection of the effervescence and confidence of post-WW II American society, and I certainly don't begrudge him his popularity or success. He hearkens back to the era when illustrators were hugely popular with the American public and reaped great incomes and celebrity as a result.

I prefer him to many (though not all) of the renascent "academic" painters of today, whose work reminds us why the popular artists trained in the French academies of the 19th Century are mostly forgotten today.

I may even read his memoir.

Steve Austin said...

This guy was outstanding. Sure, some of his works aren't very good. But he was a prolific painter, so you will have some lemons.

I've seen a fair amount of Nieman's in person whether original or prints. In person they really brighten up a house or gallery and are more impressive in person than viewed on a computer monitor. The colors pop.

The great thing to me is the fact the guy was a painter FOR GUYS. If you were a kid growing up in the 70's and 80's this was the one artist you liked. He painted sports figures and you could actually tell what he was painting. A nice counterpoint to all the modern art crap where people would glue a bunch of paper clips to a canvas and then be proclaimed a genius.

Patrick said...

Neiman was a dreadful painter, a flaccid technician, a fount of cliches and terrible ideas and an all-around whore who didn't even have sense enough to know that the cheaper whores were a better deal.

Palladian, you need to tell us how you really feel. Stop holding it in, man. You're likely to have a heart attack.

Years ago there was some controversey about Neiman, the nature of which I do not recall. All I remember is thinking "he seems to piss all of the right people off." Palladian excepted.

KCFleming said...

@Palladian "It's funny how many so-called rational conservatives get all "if it feels good, do it!" and "who are you to judge?" when assessing a (assumedly) sympathetic mediocrity like Neiman."

There is a difference between artistic and behavioral/sexual license.

The former harms no one, save for those with superior aesthetic judgement. Even then, it confirms their wisdom, and subtracts nothing. (The low-and-middle brow fans of Neiman's work rarely or never love the art you love anyway.)

The latter has massive long term effects, both at the margin and in the center of human life.

KCFleming said...

"a (assumedly) sympathetic mediocrity like Neiman."

Neiman may be Salieri, but such is the world. My wife and son have some of your ability in the artistic view. I have little or none; not unlike being colorblind.

Bad art does not make me want to pluck my eyes out. I'm part of the lumpenproletariat in that way; ROY G BIV is nearly my entire palette.

TMink said...

While I am not a fan of his work, dude had a job and made a good living. Good for him and RIP.


Bob Ellison said...

Current hatred of the pop group Nickelback is similar. As always, people wonder which artists they should like, and look to their betters to help decide. They should instead decide to like what they like.

Chip Ahoy said...

I am a closet art peeping Tom. I feel a little guilty about that, but not much.

My peepage manifests as a passenger in a car at night. I cannot help looking inside people's lighted homes as the car I'm in goes zipping by. I look for art specifically. For years I felt despair for all I ever saw was pure crap art. Bad art bad design poorly done. So depressing. But then I noticed a sudden improvement in art. All at once. Delighted to notice larger pictures. Going, and then gone were the twee decorations tentatively and meekly arranged exchanged for STATEMENTS. And I'm all whoa, hey, nice, nice, I'm going to have to step up my own game I'm liking what I'm seeing now as I do my peeping. Please keep your street side windows open at night and your lights on so I can admire what you've done with the place as we go zipping by.

(havent seen any of those Neiman things in homes, but I have seen them in offices)

ricpic said...

He was an excellent illustrator. That's a very different critter than an artist. There's no depth in his work, but so what? Who wants depth in an illustration?

LakeLevel said...

ricpic: "He was an excellent illustrator"

exactly. I liked looking at a Neiman painting because he was so good at capturing subject matter. The people and the subject were always interesting to look at.

LordSomber said...

I had some Neiman posters up in my room when I was a kid. We got them at Burger King.
I think I got the concept of kitsch pretty young.

Unknown said...

91 is plenty. Bye, Leroy. His most creative idea was his mustache. His illustrations were childish and boring. Bring on the next charlatan.

Blue@9 said...

It's funny how many so-called rational conservatives get all "if it feels good, do it!" and "who are you to judge?" when assessing a (assumedly) sympathetic mediocrity like Neiman.

Just because we're conservatives doesn't mean we hate art or artists. I have nothing to say about Nieman's work, but I find nothing objectionable about his life. Oh, and "If it feels good, do it!" is lame because it doesn't differentiate between activities that harm and ones that don't. I'm sure doing "bath salts" feels terrific, but there's that risk you'll go nuts and chew off someone's face.

Unknown said...

I thought Palladian might have something worthwhile to say about Nieman's stuff until he implied that he thought Andy Warhol was an artist.