LeRoy Neiman was one of America’s most prominent and famous sports artists, documenting some of the most iconic athletes and moments in the 20th Century sports arena. From boxing, for which he as an artist-in-residence with Muhammad Ali, to baseball, basketball, racing and more, Neiman’s legacy is one that puts sports in the synonymous category of fine art. On his centennial birthdate, we were happy to work with the LeRoy Neiman Foundation on this essay and rememberance by actor and artist, Pierce Brosnan, as he talks about the legacy of one of the great painters of the last 100 years. —Evan Pricco

I hadn’t thought about LeRoy Neiman in a long, long time. My gallerist, Guy, and I had some conversations a year or so back about some projects he had done with the LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation. Still, it wasn’t until he sent me over one of LeRoy’s books for my birthday before last that it reignited a genuine interest. Monte Carlo Chase is a beautifully riotous book on every page, a storyboard for a film almost – a tale of art world intrigue. All color, pop, and life!

On June 8th LeRoy would have been 100; he died in 2012. Seemingly having used every single minute of every single day of the 91 years he spent on this planet, using his brushes, pens, and pencils relaying as many moments and bites of food and sips of champagne he could in that time. He loved men and women with a ferocious eloquence of spontaneity, humor, grace, and elegance. 

As I thought back more, I remembered LeRoy had always been there in the background and from my formative years too, starting by flicking through the pages of Playboy as a teenager in London. He would have been the first painter I knew by his full name LeRoy Neiman, before Chagall, Picasso, Kandinsky, Monet. LeRoy is there in the movies, the stadiums, the streets, the concerts, the restaurants, the Olympics. We never met; we may have crossed paths in LA or NYC at some point in the 80s – he drew some contemporaries of mine and documented a life I was starting to dip my toes in. LeRoy painted things not everyone could access, but he painted them for everyone.

Painting Opening ceremonies at Playboy Mansion 1984 by Lynn Quayle

Not so many people know this, but I am an artist – as often as I am an actor. And LeRoy also crossed both disciplines in his unconventional way – “I created LeRoy Neiman. Nobody else told me how to do it. Well, I’m a believer in the theory that the artist is as important as his work.” he talks of himself. He was an elegant man who knew his place in time and history, who worked every day for 91 years being LeRoy Neiman.

I’m not going to make any grand claims to have been overly inspired or to have learnt from LeRoy, nor be an art historian. But I’ve got the LeRoy bug at the moment. He’s an artist not many people talk about anymore. The Nation once penned him as “the most famous artist in the world,” based on a mid-90s poll. It shows the truth in the saying good times don’t last – But there is always good times present in LeRoy’s brilliantly colored, stunningly energetic images. His work, for me, is an inspiration of kaleidoscopic and masterful brilliance that stands uniquely alone on the stage and will forever stand the test of time. The dude can draw and paint up a storm! 

LeRoy was enormously talented, offbeat, and extraordinary. He deserves to be looked at anew in the current world of Social Media, filters, and the like. LeRoy predated the digital documentation of our lives – his tracked throughout his life with pen, pencil, and paint, artifacts, and souvenirs that today show his prolific output but also his daily routines, evening plans, or weekend sojourns. If I were to find a parallel between our works – it would be the drawings we both continually make wherever we are – for me on set, on the phone, on a plane – for LeRoy anything in his immediate environment, drawing on tablecloths, menus, scorecards, playbills, and the like.

LeRoy filled his paintings and drawings with the drama and delicate interactions of men and women living life at full tilt. No holds barred. His works have a palpable urgency of sensual beauty. His whole life force of living to the fullest of his potential is evident in every brushstroke. He helped to demystify art for everyone who saw his work. 

A man becomes what he dreams; he dreamt well. Happy 100th Birthday, LeRoy!

—Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan is represented by Seasons LA, and will release his first collection of digital artworks on LGND, on June 20th