I must confess, I knew very little about LeRoy Neiman before reading this autobiography. I first saw some of his lithographs at charity golf outings and I was impressed, but that was the extent of my knowledge of his life and work.
Now, I know that the late LeRoy Neiman was an eccentric man who hob-knobbed with famous people and was well respected in the commercial art community. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t so respected in the fine art community.
All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies, and Provocateurs starts with his Neiman's mother Lydia and talks about how she eloped with Charles Julius Runquist (his father). She was 17; he was 44. Two children later, Runquist left. Lydia picked herself up with her two small boys and moved as well. She sought a better life for her sons. She picked up odds and ends jobs and meets and marries John L. Neiman, changing the boys’ last names and their religion to Catholicism.&
Neiman was lost for many years; he drifted and was recruited into the army in 1942. That’s where he learned how to cook. However, his passion, even as a child, was with drawing. When he returned from the war, he went to art school at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. There, he studied all the Impressionists and Cubism. He said, “Art is an addiction, a little like sex, the more you get, the more you want.”
Furthermore, as he remarks upon his education, “At art school there was a period when I liberated myself from everything I’d seen and been taught–broke away from it all and decided I would paint things the way I wanted–give a character a green nose or orange hair, anything that made the person or the situation interesting..."
And that he did. He painted with color, lots of it, and changed the way things looked and felt. Neiman put an interesting twist on reality.