Robert Henry De Niro, Sr.

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Robert Henry De Niro, Sr.

Birthplace: Syracuse, NY, USA
Death: Died in New York, NY, USA
Cause of death: Cancer
Place of Burial: Kensico Cemetery
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Martin De Niro and Helen M. De Niro
Ex-husband of Virginia Holton De Niro
Father of Robert De Niro
Brother of John De Niro; Joan De Niro and Elizabeth De Niro

Occupation: Abstract expressionist painter and sculpter
Managed by: Ric Dickinson
Last Updated:

About Robert Henry De Niro, Sr.,_Sr.

Robert Henry De Niro, Sr. (January 17, 1922 – May 3, 1993) was an American abstract expressionist painter and the father of actor Robert De Niro.

Robert De Niro, Sr., was born in Syracuse, New York, to an Italian-American father, Henry Martin De Niro (1897–1976), whose parents emigrated from Ferrazzano, in the province of Campobasso, Molise, and an Irish American mother, Helen M. (née O'Reilly; 1899–1999). He was the eldest of three children; he and siblings John and Joan were raised in Syracuse, NY. Robert De Niro Sr. studied at the renowned Black Mountain College under Josef Albers from 1939 to 1940. While Albers' highly analytical approach to painting did not appeal to De Niro's more instinctive style, the experience and international perspective of the Bauhaus master nonetheless left a lasting impression. De Niro studied with Hans Hofmann at his Provincetown, Massachusetts summer school. Hoffman's teaching, focused on Abstract Expressionism and Cubist formalism, had a strong influence on De Niro's development as a mature artist.

At Hofmann's summer school, he met fellow student Virginia Admiral, whom he married in 1942. The couple moved into a large, airy loft in New York's Greenwich Village, where they were able to paint. They surrounded themselves with an illustrious circle of friends, including writers Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, playwright Tennessee Williams, and the actress and famous Berlin dancer Valeska Gert. Admiral and De Niro separated shortly after their son, Robert De Niro, Jr., was born in August 1943.

De Niro attended Black Mountain College in the 1950s. Being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, De Niro painted and repainted his canvases again and again. He would do hundreds of studies before he decided to paint the subject.

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

De Niro had a series of solo exhibitions in the 1950's at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York, which exhibited the work of Willem de Kooning and other early abstract expressionist artists. By the mid- 1950's, 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 during this period through De Niro's gallerist, Virginia Zabriskie which are now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. In 1968, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, De Niro continued to exhibit in museums and galleries throughout the United States, including New York, San Francisco, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. He taught at several art schools and colleges including the Cooper Union, the New School for Social Research, the School of Visual Arts, and East Michigan State College.

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.

Robert De Niro was a visiting artist at Michigan State University's Department of Art in the early 1960s.

In 2007, son Robert De Niro threatened legal action against the Benucci S.r.l. art gallery, in Rome, Italy, after it allegedly took a number of his father's paintings from a New York arthouse to settle a $5 million debt.

Robert De Niro, Sr., died of cancer at age 71, on the morning of Monday, May 3, 1993, in New York City. He is interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. The film A Bronx Tale was dedicated to him after his death; it was the directorial debut of his son, Robert De Niro, Jr.

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Robert Henry De Niro, Sr.'s Timeline

January 17, 1922
Syracuse, NY, USA
August 17, 1943
Age 21
New York, NY, USA
May 3, 1993
Age 71
New York, NY, USA
Kensico Cemetery