"The whole idea of 'action painting' is foreign to me, and, I believe, detrimental to painting, which is what Leonardo called it, 'a mental thing.' A physical action is painting, when it dominates, dulls sensitivity to nature and to one's own feelings, precludes subtlety, and institutes a dead mechanical routine."― Robert De Niro, Sr.
Robert De Niro, Sr. was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1922. A precocious artist, by the age of 11 he was enrolled in adult painting classes at the Syracuse Museum. De Niro studied with noted German Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Massachusetts and in New York City. Hofmann considered De Niro to be one of his two best students: the other was De Niro’s future wife, Virginia Admiral. They were married in 1942 and the following year their son Robert, Jr. was born.
De Niro had his first solo show in 1946, at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, and he continued to exhibit through the ’50s at the Charles Egan Gallery, alongside artists like Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and Franz Kline.
De Niro explored and developed his definitive style of boldly outlined painterly representation for the next 40 years, frequently exhibiting at a number of prominent New York galleries, achieving great critical acclaim. But he struggled to survive as an artist, never compromising his own rigorous artistic sensibility. A lifelong artist, as well as an accomplished poet, De Niro traveled to France in the 1960s, worked in San Francisco in the ‘70s, and ultimately made his studio in New York City’s Soho district, where he died in 1993.