Born in Lichfield, Neiland has been interested in architectural subjects his whole life. His distinctive paintings contain generally quite stark buildings, but softened by reflections in water or in glass. With an effective use of light, made mysterious through reflection and distortion, he presents familiar structures in a new and romantic fashion, having been likened to Vermeer and Georges Braque. His use of spray paint adds a smooth texture to his works.
Elected in 1992 to the Royal Academy, he was appointed Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools in 1998 and was credited with revitalising what had been a struggling art school. In 2004 he was expelled from the RA under circumstances believed to relate to an internal power struggle. Sir Peter Blake, a fellow Academician, resigned in protest.