De Niro Sr., Artist

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Robert De Niro Sr at work in his studio in New York, circa 1980. Photograph: Sonia Moskowitz/Images Press/Getty Images.

I did not know, until encountering this article in The Guardian, that actor Robert De Niro’s father was a professional painter.

Born in Syracuse, New York, into an Irish-Italian household, De Niro Sr was a child prodigy. In 1933, aged 11, he started taking classes at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, which even gave him his own room in which to work. Later, his admirers included the art patron Peggy Guggenheim. His debut solo exhibition, when he was 23, inspired leading critic Clement Greenberg to write: “Guggenheim has discovered another important young abstract painter.”

(Dalya Alberge, “Robert De Niro on his father’s journals: ‘It was sad for me to read. He had his demons,’”, 9-29-19)

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Still Life, circa 1946, and Anna Christie Entering the Bar, 1976, by Robert De Niro Sr. Photograph: © The Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The hook for this article is the famous son’s discomfort at his father’s struggles over sexual orientation as expressed in journals. More interesting will be a straight-ahead appreciation of a good painter’s art that one hopes will come.

de niro sr4

Robert De Niro Sr. Paintings, Drawings and Writings: 1942-1993, will be published in October. Photograph: book jacket.

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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2 Responses to De Niro Sr., Artist

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    He may have been a childhood prodigy, but I’m not sure he improved much since then. The cover of that book is, well, I guess he’s trying to break every rule of aesthetics in order to be radical or something, in which case the end result in agonizing to look at. Rarely do paintings make me say out loud, “YUCK!”. These hurt my eyes and my soul. But, uh, that might have been the intent, I guess. Me, I’m old school. I like my art beautiful like I like my food delicious.

    Was that critical. Well, maybe someone just selected his worst abominations for some sinister reason. Uuugh, I can’t look at them!


  2. JMN says:

    Really? “Uuugh” has three ‘u’s?


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