Provincetown Arts Center honors Robert De Niro and Robert De Niro, Sr.

Author Ann Patchett talks with Robert De Niro at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Annual Awards Celebration, July 12, 2014. Photograph: Lauren Ewing

Author Ann Patchett talks with Robert De Niro at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Annual Awards Celebration, July 12, 2014.

Photograph: Lauren Ewing

On July 12, 2014, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts honored Robert De Niro Sr., his son actor Robert De Niro Jr., and award-winning author Ann Patchett at their 5th Annual Summer Awards Celebration. At an evening ceremony, the honorees were recognized for their passionate creativity and distinguished achievement in arts and letters. In addition, the Fine Arts Work Center celebrated Robert De Niro Sr.’s enduring relationship with the town of Provincetown and exceptional achievements in the arts with a screening of HBO’s documentary Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr. and a stunning exhibition of the artist’s work.

The Fine Arts Work Center was founded in 1968 with the vision of providing time and space to emerging visual artists and writers through residency programs in Provincetown, MA. Located on the site of the historic Days Lumberyard Fine Arts Work Center, which housed the studios of Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler, and others, the center offers an open-enrollment summer workshop program in visual arts and creative writing featuring award-winning faculty. 

During an intimate reception, Robert De Niro Jr. performed double duty, giving an acceptance speech for his award and on behalf of his late father. In a heartfelt speech, De Niro praised the center for their unwavering commitment to the arts. He said, “The Fine Arts Works Center understands, you created a community where cloistered artists mix with local people of taste, sensitivity and generosity. It may take a generation or more for many artists to get the world’s recognition, some never will, but thanks to you there is a place where their work is recognized and appreciated now. In memory of my father, the man and the artist, I thank you for that.” 

The Fine Arts Work Center exhibition of Robert De Niro Sr.’s art is beautiful, symbolic and fitting tribute to an artist who began his career in the Days Lumberyard. The opening of “Robert De Niro, Sr. (1922-1993): Selected Works,” coincided with the center’s award ceremony and is on view at the Hudson D. Walker Gallery until August 3, 2014. The exhibition, curated by art advisor Megan Fox Kelly, includes a distinguish collection of 20 drawings and paintings that span his prolific career.  

The town of Provincetown holds a special significance in the artist’s life and career. 

In 1939 Robert De Niro first traveled to Provincetown to attend Hans Hofmann’s prestigious summer school. While De Niro studied at his school until 1942, he continued to visit Provincetown throughout his life and capture the town’s charm in many of his finest paintings. 

For De Niro, Provincetown and Hofmann’s summer school was a place of adventure, friendship and profound artistic growth. Inspired by Hofmann's rich knowledge of art history and strong emphasis on color, under his tutelage De Niro fearlessly pushed the boundaries of representation toward abstraction. In his Provincetown classes, Hofmann’s student explored volume and space by creating charcoal cubist drawings of the figure. Cubist Figure, one of only a few surviving drawings from his time at Hofmann’s school, is included in the Fine Art Works Center exhibition. 

Encouraged by Hofmann, De Niro learned to rely on his instincts to create unique compositions that exploited the powerful tension between line and color, subject matter and abstraction. As a result, his subsequent charcoals are infused with a greater degree of pulsating energy, De Niro’s vivid lines and soft areas of furiously applied charcoal. Following his time in Provincetown, De Niro continued to create electrifying landscapes and interior scenes, whose floating planes of exhilarating color, harnessed within thick outlines, recalled Hofmann’s stunning paintings from the early 1940s. 

Provincetown will always be part of De Niro’s legacy and a pivotal moment in the development of his enduring artistic style. Robert De Niro Sr. would agree that is an amazing honor to be recognized by such wonderful organization committed to injecting energy into Provincetown’s creative legacy.