Art mavens...LeRoy Neiman scorn, why?

As some of you may know, I’ve developed an interest in painting over the last couple of years. However, since this interest is fairly new, I’m relatively lacking in sophistication regarding certain aspects of painting.

I’ve recently rediscovered the art of LeRoy Neiman, who I am primarily familiar with from decades old issues of Playboy magazine. In looking at all the paintings on the website that sells his work I’m struck by what appears to me to be an incredibly complex and individualistic style in terms of the interplay of color and in his basic rendering of images.

Yet he seems to be little respected in the art community.

Can anyone shed any light on this? Does his work only seem complex and difficult because I’m lacking understanding in certain fundamental methods of paint application, or is his work truly complex and individualistic, and therefore lacking in an appreciation that will eventually come decades from now?

I would appreciate any and all information anyone would care to post.

I think the (prevailing view in the art world) (perception) (fact) that his work is really nasty might be why he’s scorned. Well, that and his wealth/fame/popular success. Putting the two together never makes friends.

Also, he seems to be ripping off artists along the lines of Bonnard and Vuillard. Here’s some of their work, along with others like them. Their colors are harmonious, not garish.Using paint straight out of the tube, as Neiman does, isn’t looked kindly upon. The objects in good paintings have a relationship with each other, they don’t stand alone. People think that the point of making a painting is (generally and not speaking for all art) to represent the object at hand, but that’s really not the case; it’s (again, not speaking for all art) to express the visual relationship between the objects at hand. World of difference.

Personally, his colors make my teeth hurt and his figures seem to be made of silly putty. They just don’t work. But I don’t mean to insult your interest in Neiman - plenty of wealthy people spent money on his work.

You might want to try copying his paintings and those of some other artists, I think that would explain a lot. Keep studying and good luck!]Here’s someone else you might want to look at . Chuck Close is really doing some sophisticated things with color. From a distance his color paintings appear photo-realistic, but close-up you can see he’s used an amazing palette to get his effects. Close is a genius - and also fairly wealthy and successful. Just about every decent-sized museum in America has some of his work.

Well, shoot. Trying again.. Sorry.

(Speaking not as a “maven”) Neiman lacks draftsmanship and his use of paint is a gimmick that wasn’t too interesting in the first place.

I’d give the same advice to aspiring artists regarding their influences as I’d give to my daughter about boyfriends; if you like him, that’s fine, but be sure this isn’t something that will end up dragging you down. A truly great figurative painter from whom one could learn much, much more than from LeRoy Neiman offers is Lucien Freud. Neither decorative nor grotesque, his nudes are entierly credible despite showing each brushstroke clearly and economically.

Personally, I can only enjoy LeRoy Neiman on the same level as Botero; one of those guilty pleasures where I can laugh at the stupidity of the work, the people who buy it up, and also at the art "mavens’ who sneer at it but who still did nothing to stop the invasions of Jeff Koons, Julian Schanbel, Mark Kostabi, etc. way back in the 1980’s when there was money for art, an interest in art but…no art.

It’s not just art mavens.

From Top Secret:

German Soldier (reporting on a torture interrogation) 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!

Even Hollywood hates him.

From his website:

“Best known for his brilliantly colored, stunningly energetic images of sporting events and leisure activities, LeRoy Neiman is probably the most popular living artist in the United States. His art is unique. It stands alone, without any real comparison. It is an art which has become controversial because Neiman has broken the barriers of many of the most hallowed assumptions of modern art history and contemporary criticism. It is an art that is loved by millions of people throughout America and around the world.”

That pretty much says it all. It says, my work is “important” because I say it is. What it doesn’t say is, without the expressionists, or pop art movement and a number of pop artists such as David Hockney, Claus Oldenburg, and Red Grooms, this guy would have no feet to stand on.

There’s an entry devoted to him in The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste (an indispensable work. If nothing else, it lets you know why the cognescenti look down on some of the things you like.) Some of the reasons given for the low regard he’s held in are listed above. He works fast, uses a garish palette, hangs out with the wrong people, his stuff is too “accessible” (it doesn’t make you think), he’s too commercially acceptable, etc.
IANA Artist or Art Critic. I still buy books on Modern Art hoping they will elevate my yahoo-level sensibilities. But I do know that I can level some of these criticisms against accepted artists as well – several of them worked fast and/or had assistants. (Heck, Picasso worked fast and was ludicrously successful in the last half of his life) Van Gogh was notorious for applying paint directly from the tube, and for using garish colors.
At least he doesn’t have boutique stores in suburban malls selling reproductions of his stuff.

Interesting comparison with van Gogh - Starving, you might want to pull some images of both artists & look at them side-by-side. Being able to do that is s a nice benefit of the Internet. Do the differences leap out at you?

I am not an artist.

However, I can tell you why I dislike LeRoy Neiman: His paintings are emotionally shallow and mannerist.

For example, look at this portrait of Frank Sinatra. It’s all surface. Yeah, it’s a passible likeness of Frank, but it doesn’t begin to touch the man’s emotional depths. With a really good painter you can see past the surface of the canvas and into the subject’s soul. Compare Neiman’s work to Lucien Freud, for example.

His lack of emotional depth would be forgivable if he was doing interesting things with form or composition. But he just seems be using garish colors for the hell of it. Compare the haphazard use of color in the Sinatra painting with the masterly composition of Matisse’s Woman in a Purple Coat. That’s why I say he’s mannerist. He’s taking what’s basically a quirky schtick and milking it without taking it anyplace interesting.

His relentless self-promotion and large volume of work make matters worse. He’s the epitome of a hack – a mediocre artist who grinds out the same painting over and over again for a quick buck.

Yeah, he’s not a complete no-talent. But he doesn’t deserve the success he’s achieved.

fessie gave a thoughtful, educational take on how to consider him.

Pochacco is a little more visceral in his/her assessment.

I think both are spot on and did a good job of summarizing his work.

oooo - pretty, but not art, per se.

He’s respected as an illustrator, but not as an artist, if you grasp the distinction.

His best work illustrates magazine articles or album covers, by conveying the mood of what’s contained in the pices he illustrates. His paintings don’t stand alone very well, though.

A great work of art raises questions and makes you look at its subjects in a different, previously-unconsidered light. A great illustration answers questions and sells you on an idea or a product. LeRoy Nieman is not a great artist, but he’s a helluva commercial illustrator. And that’s pretty considerable.

Thanks, WordMan! Pochacco’s link to Freud was fantastic, that painting is wonderful. Really excellent comparison.

Francis Bacon is someone else you might like - a bit darker (emotionally) than Vuillard. Some of his work is way out there, I adore him.

It’s hard to discuss art over the Internet - sorry I’m kind of pompous about the topic, just my own personal issues. It’s fun to follow everyone’s links, though.

Hmm. I’ve never heard of the guy (I mostly work on earlier art, so not surprising). I did a Google image search on him, and, eh. I mean, not bad, but not innovative in the same way that Rauschenberg or Pollock were, for example. His work is at its best basically application of fauve and German Expressionist color schemes to contemporary subject matter (looks, basically, like Kirchner doing baseball pictures). Little bits of Impressionist paint use mixed in (LOTS of people who use paint straight from the tube have been well-respected), etc. Basically taking the elements of a number of styles and updating it a bit. BUT he’s not doing anything new, therefore will never be mentioned in an art survey.
But hey, if you like it, that’s cool-- not everyone can be an innovator and most people will merely make nice art. Because it’s so popular many “art people” will disdain it and people who like it. Some art historians will be more understanding and simply shrug and go, “Ok. That’s ok with me. Go ahead, but don’t think he’s going to be remembered. But as if that really matters.” They have the (warped?) perspective of knowing that of, say, 1000 decent painters active in 1400s Cologne, for example, we only have a couple of guys’ names that can actually be connected with pictures, because they were outstanding in their own time. The others got work and were well-respected and well-liked but they were NOT Stephan Lochner. Innovators will be long remembered, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else is worthless meanwhile.
Of course some art historians think anything since 1450 is a fad. But fads can be important. Eh. Now I’m blathering. Don’t worry about liking what you like. He’s might be a hack but at least he’s a likeable hack. De gustibus non disputandum est.

I’ve got my copy of Jane and Michael Stern’s ncyclopedia of Bad Art here, open to pages 229-230, the entry on “Neiman, Leroy”. The entry is too long to quote here, so I’ll just give a couple of excerpts:

Who’s a better artist? LeRoy Neiman or Thomas Kinkade (Painter of Light)? If you had to choose, whose painting would be hoisted on your living room wall?

Given that choice, I think I’d jam forks into both eyes.

Of the popular-but-disrespected artists, I’d pick Norman Rockwell’s work for my living room. I enjoy many of his paintings.

Personally I think Kinkade’s work is the worst stuff out there. But that’s not to say Koons is much better (and I’ve never “gotten” deKoonig).

capybara’s point about historically relevant innovators vs. competent for their time is exactly right (along with the fauve reference, much more accurate than my comparison). Neiman really bombs the competency requirement, though, in my book. The lack of color relationships is a real problem, and his linear references are completely off, just anatomically impossible. I’ll try to think of a concise way of explaining this color problem, or find a reference where someone else already has.

And relocate velvet black-light Spiderman? NEVER!!

I don’t pay much attention to Neiman, but I’d have to agree that it’s the color. I’m a big fan of “loud” color schemes—even “garish” color schemes—but some thought has to go into it. Some of his works are better than others, but overall, his use of color is . . . bleah.

But if I had to choose between him and Kinkaide, I’d take Neiman. But it’s the lack of sense in some of his color schemes that gets me.