By Sal Maccarone
Impressionism is a theory and practice of painting that simulates light reflected through dabs and strokes of paint. This pictorial approach was originally conceived by French painters who lived and worked at the end of the 19th century. The Impressionist movement received its name following a work by Claude Monet entitled “Impression Sunrise”. This painting received a satirical review in a newspaper which ultimately called the entire movement “impressionism.” Ordinary subjects associated with an illusion of movement and precise rendering of light were the hallmarks of their paintings.
Like so many artistic upheavals, the Impressionist movement was in reality a revolution. An alliance was formed by a group of artists for the purpose of exhibiting their art. It was against the policy of the time. At that time, the French government dictated which works of art, and therefore which artists, were acceptable. Pierre Renoir, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Paul Signac were just a few of the names of the original movement. They all worked closely together and were in turn influenced by each other’s work.
Radical in their day, the Impressionists broke the rules simply by painting outdoors in nature. These artists sometimes painted the same scene at different times of the day with very different results. They were not interested in painting historical subjects, but rather scenes from their own time. This revolutionary way of painting was the precursor of many artistic movements that followed, notably post-impressionism, surrealism and modern art.
One hundred years later, in the course of the 20th century, another famous artist single-handedly showed us that Impressionism was still alive. LeRoy Neiman (1921 -2012) was an American artist who mixed bright colors with broad brushstrokes to document sports and fame. “Dynamic” would be one way of describing his work. LeRoy Neiman’s sports drawings have become an artistic genre in their own right. No other artist had ever captured events and people like he did. As the official illustrator of the Olympic Games from 1960 to 1984, his sports paintings were published and recognized around the world.
Both illustrator and painter, LeRoy Neiman’s career spanned seven decades. His paintings of people such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Willie Mays, Frank Sinatra, and Sylvester Stallone are unique and timeless. Towards the end of his life he said: “I borrow colors from life to emphasize the spirit of the subjects I paint.