About us
Artists Robert De Niro, Sr.
Robert De Niro, Sr. Photo

Robert De Niro, Sr.

American Painter

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: May 3, 1922 - Syracuse, New York

Died: May 3, 1993 - New York, New York, USA

Robert De Niro, Sr. Timeline


"I would like to think that the exhilaration will have a great effect and influence in the deepest sense, not causing painters to develop mannerisms based on Bonnard's style, but causing them to try to equal as much as they are able, Bonnard's essence."
Robert De Niro, Sr.

"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."


Painter, sculptor and poet Robert De Niro, Sr. was a substantial contributor to post-war American art for his dedication to painterly representation. While his contemporaries eschewed the figurative style of the Old Masters, De Niro reveled in it. Yet, he manipulated this representative imagery in highly imaginative ways, using reality as a framework in which to evolve his intensely expressive brushstrokes and colors. This vivid, innovative, representational work established De Niro as a distinct figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Key Ideas

Although influenced by the gestural panting of his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries, De Niro's aesthetic was primarily shaped through the subjects and styles of France's 19th-century artists and Europe's early modernist painters.
De Niro helped to establish painterly representation as a specific, unique style in its own right, rather than a simple extension of existing European and American methods.
The ongoing friction between reality and abstraction in De Niro's paintings sets them apart from those of his contemporaries. Almost all of his works are representational, but they are also very expressive, making bold, imaginative use of color, lines, and brushstrokes.


Robert De Niro, Sr. Photo


Robert De Niro was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1922. He began making art at age five and showed immediate and immense talent, eventually enrolling in adult classes at the Syracuse Museum. At only 12 years old, he impressed his teachers so much that he received his own studio in the museum school. While his Irish mother encouraged his painting, his Italian father did not. Despite his father's disapproval, De Niro continued developing his exceptional artistic skill.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Robert De Niro, Sr. Biography Continues

Important Art by Robert De Niro, Sr.

The below artworks are the most important by Robert De Niro, Sr. - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

<i> Portrait of Mrs. Z</i> (1959)
Artwork Images

Portrait of Mrs. Z (1959)

Artwork description & Analysis: De Niro's primary subjects were representational landscapes, still lifes and portraits, such as the seated woman in Portrait of Mrs. Z. He expanded on these traditional subjects with carefully chosen combinations of vivid colors bordered by distinctive outlines, reflecting an influence of artists such as Cézanne, who also painted expressionistic figurative works. Through these works, De Niro gained recognition for connecting French Fauvist painters' colors and representational themes with Abstract Expressionists' gestural paint application.

Oil on canvas - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

<i> Pattern Still Life #1</i> (1960)
Artwork Images

Pattern Still Life #1 (1960)

Artwork description & Analysis: In Pattern Still Life #1 , one of De Niro's many still life paintings, he continued using representational subject matter as a forum for expressionistic experiments with color. Often drawn to interesting patterns and designs, he closely replicated the decorative patterns found around the room, but in many other still life works he deployed a more abstracted style. He also integrated his diverse, multicultural interests into his work, commingling exotic or antique sculpture amidst everyday flowers and fruit. By the time he created this painting, De Niro had solidified the painterly representational style in which he worked for the remainder of his career.

Oil on canvas - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

<i> Nude with Leg Up</i> (1970)
Artwork Images

Nude with Leg Up (1970)

Artwork description & Analysis: Although De Niro was making work at the same time as the Abstract Expressionists, he drew less on the sharp angles of Cubism than did his contemporaries. Nude with Leg Up illustrates his propensity for rich, thickly applied colors, dynamic, spontaneous curves and wavy brushstrokes. Linearity played a particularly integral role within De Niro's work; many of his paintings' compositions relied on bold outlines to give structure to the abstracted sections of color.

Oil on canvas - Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco

More Robert De Niro, Sr. Artwork and Analysis:

By submitting the above you agree to The Art Story privacy policy.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Robert De Niro, Sr.
Interactive chart with Robert De Niro, Sr.'s main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Hans HofmannHans Hofmann
André DerainAndré Derain
Chaim SoutineChaim Soutine
Pierre BonnardPierre Bonnard

Personal Contacts

Tennessee WilliamsTennessee Williams
Anais NinAnais Nin
Robert DuncanRobert Duncan
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning


Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Influences on Artist
Robert De Niro, Sr.
Robert De Niro, Sr.
Years Worked: 1933 - 1993
Influenced by Artist


Larry RiversLarry Rivers
Jane FreilicherJane Freilicher
Lester JohnsonLester Johnson

Personal Contacts

Clement GreenbergClement Greenberg
Thomas B. HessThomas B. Hess



Useful Resources on Robert De Niro, Sr.






The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Robert De Niro, Sr

By Peter Frank


Robert De Niro, Sr (1922-1993) Recomended resource

By Ivana Salander and Bruno Bertrand

Robert De Niro, Sr. (1922-1993): Paintings

By Robert De Niro

More Interesting Books about Robert De Niro, Sr.
Robert De Niro on His Father's Art Studio Recomended resource

By Robert De Niro, Jr.
July 9, 2012

De Niro Jr. on De Niro St.

By Ann Landi
January 1, 2011

The Bohemian Life of Robert De Niro, Senior Recomended resource

By Christopher Turner
The Telegraph
March 19, 2009

Paint Brushes Full, Robert De Niro Sr. Really Thought Big

By Hilton Kramer
The New York Observer
March 7, 2005

More Interesting Articles about Robert De Niro, Sr.

in pop culture

Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro, Sr.

Documentary on Robert De Niro Sr.

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]

Did we succeed in explaining the art to you?
If Yes, please tell others about us: