The Eyes

The Eyes

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Art of Robert De Niro, Sr.

Father and Son | Actor Robert De Niro and Artist Robert De Niro, Sr.

Poet, sculptor and artist Robert De Niro, Sr. became known during the post World War II era for his dynamic, richly-colored paintings that gracefully synthesized modernist abstraction with more traditional compositions and formal themes. 

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1922, De Niro was passionate about art from an early age. While still in high school, he attended art classes at the Syracuse Museum, where he was provided with a private room where he could paint independently. De Niro studied under two of the 20th century’s leading colorists: first with Joseph Albers at Black Mountain College (1940), and later with Hans Hofmann (1941-42). A perfectionist, De Niro painted and repainted his canvases again and again. He would do hundreds of studies before he decided to paint the subject. 

At Hofmann's summer school, he met fellow student Virginia Admiral, whom he married in 1942. The couple moved into a large loft in New York's Greenwich Village, where they were able to paint and surrounded themselves with a circle of friends, which included writers Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller and playwright Tennessee Williams. Admiral and De Niro, Sr. separated shortly after their son, Robert, was born in August 1943.

In 1945, he was included in the Fall exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's The Art of This Century gallery on 57th Street in New York. Reviews of the exhibition praised the work of De Niro as well as that of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. He had his first solo exhibition at The Art of This Century the following year.

De Niro had a series of solo exhibitions in the 1950s at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York, which also exhibited the work of Willem de Kooning and Knox Martin. By the mid-1950s, De Niro was regularly included in important group exhibitions such as the Whitney Annual, the Stable Annual, and the Jewish Museum.

From 1961-1964, De Niro traveled to France to paint in Paris and in the surrounding countryside. Collector Joseph Hirshhorn purchased a number of the artist's paintings and works on paper, which are now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. 

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, De Niro continued to exhibit in museums and galleries throughout the United States and taught at several art schools and colleges. His work is included in several museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, Mint Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, Kansas City Art Institute, and the Yellowstone Museum Art Center.

De Niro, Sr., died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 71 in New York City. The film "A Bronx Tale" was dedicated to him after his death; it was the directorial debut of his son, Robert De Niro.

Actor/director Robert De Niro has painstakingly preserved
his father's studio and his legacy. In 2010, he launched 
an annual $25,000 award for an outstanding mid-career
American artist for achievements in painting. The award
is administered by De Niro's Tribeca Film Institute.

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