Cigar Aficionado

Five Decades of LeRoy Neiman

Behind the bar at midnight, ringside with Muhammad Ali, on the New York Jets' 50-yard line or in the batter's box at Yankee Stadium, LeRoy Neiman was there, and has brought America with him in his paintings and portraitures.

The celebrated artist and avid cigar smoker has reached a milestone, celebrating 50 years of work. To commemorate the artist's career, Abrams Books has released a special-edition album entitled LeRoy Neiman: Five Decades. The book features a half century of sketches, prints and paintings presented decade by decade. The reader follows the progression of Neiman's work and subjects, which is essentially a time line in his dazzling array of life experiences that include posh society events, Playboy bunnies and casino craps tables.

Present are some of his lesser-known, early works depicting gritty scenes of 1950s Chicago nightlife, as well as his better known pieces of famous jazz musicians, such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, and sports legends and superstars from Arnold Palmer to the Williams sisters. The 288-page book contains 345 full-color illustrations.

"Looming large on the horizon of spectacular American events are the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Olympics, championship boxing matches, and the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, given the their visual shape by Neiman," writes Richard Brilliant, a professor of art history at Columbia University, in the introduction. "…Thus, LeRoy Neiman has become a ubiquitous feature of the American visual landscape."

LeRoy Neiman: Five Decades goes on sale at bookstores in December and will retail for $75.