Taking Umbridge: Fischl = Neiman


Comparing Leroy Neiman to Eric Fischl is not fair. We own these two drawings by Mr. Neiman. They are great. He can capture with a simple line an in depth character read of the subject. The one on the right depicts the scene walking into Sardi’s. The goal would be a table  with a fawning waiter or a seat at the bar next to the inebriated sot who probably has a good story. Well, good luck getting by Vincent Sardi, plunk in the middle of the sketch, holding the heavy leather menues like a gladiator’s shield. The next drawing ( left) is Jerry Lewis. From behind, fidgeting in a chair. Here’s a case, if anything was, of undiagnosed Adult ADD. He can’t sit still, Neiman nails it in simple strokes.

I once had a teacher at Art Center who would talk of a vaudeville act where the performers would stomp their feet and prepare for someting dramatic to happen. They would chalk their hands, look skyward, clap them together with great affect and then applaud themselves heartily before taking elaborate bows. Nothing at all would happen. There are drawings such as this, my teacher concluded. Mr. Fischl would fit handily in this category. It is really not fair to compare Mr. Fischl to Mr. Neiman.

But please, let’s leave the art critics out of this discussion. There are some fine and good critics at the New York Times. Then there are some who probably should retire. One has to look back with the passage of time to determine who was right and who was asleep at the wheel.