American Embassy in Rome and Rome Film Festival present European premiere of film "Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr."

Robert De Niro, Megan Fox Kelly, Perri Peltz, at 2014 Rome Film Festival Photograph: Matteo Nardone

Robert De Niro, Megan Fox Kelly, Perri Peltz, at 2014 Rome Film Festival

Photograph: Matteo Nardone

Monday November 17, 2014 -- The HBO documentary, Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr. debuted in Europe at the Rome Film Festival. The Fondazione Cinema per Roma and the MAXXI – National Museum of XXI Century Arts organized, in collaboration with Mazda and with the kind concession of HBO and Italian Sky Arte HD channel, a screening of the documentary by Perri Peltz and Geeta Gandbhir, dedicated to the life and work of Robert De Niro Senior, American painter, poet, and sculptor of Italian origin, and father of the great actor Robert De Niro. After the film, Italian film critic, and Rome Film Festival senior programmer Mario Sesti moderated a panel discussion with the artist’s son Robert De Niro. 

In honor of the European premiere of the documentary, United States Ambassador to Italy John Phillips and his wife Linda Douglass hosted a screening of the film at Villa Taverna, the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. The event was attending by Robert De Niro, HBO filmmakers, art advisor Megan Fox Kelly, art industry professionals and other distinguished guests.Thanks to Ambassador Phillips and his wife’s hospitality guests were also able to view two of De Niro Sr.’s paintings,Woman Seated in a Green Chair (1966) and Women of Algiers (1968) currently on view at the residence. 

The paintings on view are both stunning examples of De Niro’s energetic compositions. Together they exhibit De Niro’s dramatic use of color and form, as well as help to showcase his admiration for European art. While attending Hans Hofmann’s school in the 1940s, De Niro was heavily influenced by his teacher’s appreciation for the European masters. Throughout his career, De Niro avidly visited museums and collected books about European painters. De Niro’s personal library included books on Leonardo, Bonnard, Ingres, Picasso, Michelangelo and texts he used to teach himself French. In De Niro’s portraits, such as Woman Seated in a Green Chair (1966), there is a strong presence of Matisse and Cezanne’s powerful black lines and vibrant colors. While the posed women in the center of the canvas recalls the tradition of classical portraiture, De Niro’s sweeping brushstrokes and fluid shapes place him in dialogue with the European modernists. 

While in Paris during the early 1960s, he visited France’s great art establishments, including the Louvre, and continued to learn more about the continent’s celebrated artists. De Niro’s adoration for the paintings by these European masters is clearest in his rendition of many of their signature works. Throughout the 1960s, De Niro painted his interpretation of many of the paintings located in French museum collections, including Gustave Courbet’s Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet (1845), El Greco’s Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors (circa 1590) and Eugène Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers (In Their Apartment) (1834). His Women of Algiers painting from 1968 conveys De Niro’s ability to render these compositions his own. Similar to Delacroix painting concubines sit in a dimly light harem; however, using bold outlines to create geometric shapes, De Niro renders the women in a purely modern aesthetic. While his rich earth maintains the sensuality of Delacroix’s composition, De Niro’s energetic brushstrokes bring a new sense of mystery to the painting. Throughout his career, De Niro’s admiration for the great European painters remained one of his strongest influences.

De Niro Sr.’s paintings on loan to the American Embassy in Rome were placed by the Art in Embassies Program, which promotes the cultural identity of America’s art and artists by borrowing original works of art by U.S. citizens for display in approximately 180 U.S. embassy residences worldwide. These exhibitions of art are loaned from galleries, museums, individual artists, and corporate and private collections. Each exhibition is developed collaboratively between a United States ambassador and one of AIEP’s curators. For five decades, Art inEmbassies (AIE) has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy through a very focused mission of vital cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and dynamic artist exchange. The Museum of Modern Art first envisioned this global visual arts program in 1953, and President John F. Kennedy formalized it at the U.S. Department of State in 1963. Today, AIE is a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors, and encompasses over 200 venues in 189 countries. Professional curators and registrars create and ship about 60 exhibitions per year, and since 2000, over 58 permanent collections have been installed in the Department’ s diplomatic facilities throughout the world.