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ARTIST INDEX: Robert de Niro, Sr.

"A physical action is painting, when it dominates, dulls one's 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., One Seated and One Standing Figure (1979), charcoal on paper, 25 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery

Artist Biography

Robert De Niro Sr. (May 3, 1922 in Syracuse, New York) was an American painter, sculptor and poet. While he was best known as the father of his namesake, the artist established his name in the Abstract Expressionist movement. Unlike any other Abstract Expressionist artist like Jackson Pollock, De Niro makes references to modern European masters such as Eugene Delacroix to Henri Matisse.

Before De Niro exhibited his art, he studied under Hans Hoffmann and Josef Albers, who trained him to develop his artistic style. Apart from being trained, De Niro worked at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which is now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 1945, Peggy Guggenheim, the niece of Solomon, exhibited De Niro in her gallery called Art of this Century. Months later, she gave him a solo exhibit. After his breakthrough with Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, De Niro exhibited his work at the Charles Egan Gallery, Whitney Museum and Jewish Museum, where he was exhibited in "Artists of the New York School: Second Generation."

Robert De Niro Sr., Summer Landscape with Tree (1971), oil on fiberboard, 28 x 30 inches, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery

On May 3, 1993, De Niro passed away. Seventeen years after his passing, De Niro's estate and the Tribeca Film Institute created a prize in his honor that would award an American artist whose work made a significant contribution in painting.

Robert De Niro Sr., Still Life (1968), Oil on panel, 22 × 30 in., Courtesy of Hackett | Mill

Robert De Niro Sr., Black Statuette (1975), Oil on fiberboard, 30 × 36 in., Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery

Auction Results

De Niro's Untitled (1971) was auctioned at Sotheby's for $5,000 to $7,000 in 2014. However, it sold for at least $31,000. At the same exhibit, his charcoal paintings were slated to go for $14,000 while his large paintings went for $250,000. According to Art Price, seven lots of De Niro's artwork were sold and he earned a turnover of $22,450 in 2016. Currently, De Niro's 39 watercolor drawings and 33 paintings are currently on sale alongside a sculpture and a print on the online auction site.

Robert De Niro Sr., Untitled (1971), oil on canvas, Courtesy of Sotheby's

Artwork on Sale

Robert De Niro Sr., Salander-O'Reilly Monograph, Hardcover First Edition Book (2004), 12 x 9 in., in Alpha 137 Gallery, New York

Robert De Niro Sr., Untitled Portrait (1966), charcoal on paper, 36 x 30 x 1.5 in., in Pacific Galleries, Seattle

Robert De Niro Sr., Untitled (Portrait of a Woman) (1961), oil on paper, 29 7/8 x 21 7/8 in., in Doyle New York, New York

Selected Past Exhibits

Art of this Century, Peggy Guggenheim, New York, NY, 1946

Robert De Niro Sr.: Landscapes, Salander O'Reilly Galleries, New York, NY, 2000

Robert De Niro Sr.: Paintings and Drawings, DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY, 2012

New and Upcoming Exhibits

Matisse and American Art, Montclair Museum of Art, Montclair, NJ, Feb. 5 - June 18, 2017

Salt City Abstraction, Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY, Feb. 11 - May 14 2017


  • Although Robert De Niro Sr. was gay, he struggled to embrace his sexuality

  • He lived in Paris during the last years of his life in poverty

  • Robert De Niro made a documentary on his father as a way to preserve his legacy

  • His studio in SoHo was left untouched

  • He was jealous of Willem de Kooning for earning $15,000 per year on his artwork

  • De Niro Sr. was 23 years old when Peggy Guggenheim exhibited his artwork at her gallery

  • He was friends with Anais Nin, who hired him to help her write a few pages

  • De Niro Sr. worked as a waiter in Provincetown with Tennessee Williams, the playwright of A Streetcar Named Desire


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