Saturday, 29 October 2011

Venus from the rear: Beauty contestants by Leroy Neiman

We don't, on the whole, like Leroy Neiman's garish pseudo expressionist paintings; we just find them too busy.  Some of his drawings, however, are more to our taste.  This charcoal dates from the early sixties and is of contestants in a beauty contest held at Cannes during one of the film festivals there.  Commenting on it some fifteen years later Neiman was surprised at how the ideal shape of feminine beauty changes over the years. "Those women really had strong back porches!" he said.  Not a description of the female rear that Agent Triple P has heard before but the prominent waist/hip ratio favoured as the ideal in the early, pre-Twiggy, sixties is marvellously apparent, however exagerrated, in this drawing.  The low-cut bikini bottoms of the time really emphasise the rear.

Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co department store, Chicago

Neiman studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois.  His big break came when he was working as an illustrator at Chicago's Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co department store alongside a young copywriter named Hugh Hefner.  Hefner used some of Neiman's pictures when he started Playboy in the fifties and Neiman's illustrations still appear in the magazine today.  At the age of ninety he continues to paint.

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