Sundance Film Festival premiere of documentary: "Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr"

Studio of Robert De Niro, Sr., New York. Photograph by Rudy Valdez

Studio of Robert De Niro, Sr., New York. Photograph by Rudy Valdez


HBO Documentary Films Presentation Premieres in the Short Film Program at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival

Exhibition of De Niro, Sr.’s Artwork at the Julie Nester Gallery in Park City To Coincide with Screening

In 1945, the painter Robert De Niro, Sr.’s work was included in the Fall Exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery alongside the work of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.  The following year, De Niro had his first solo exhibition at Guggenheim’s gallery, an extremely prestigious honor for a young painter. However, this would prove to be the highpoint of De Niro, Sr.’s public success. As his work soon fell out of step with the popular art movements of the time, De Niro struggled with poverty and desperation.

REMEMBERING THE ARTIST is a deeply moving portrait of the painter told by art experts, the artists who worked alongside him, by De Niro Sr. himself via found footage interviews, and most affectingly by his son, the actor Robert De Niro, Jr.  De Niro, Jr. reads from his father’s letters and journals and provides his own moving recollections of his father’s personal and professional struggles, as part of his own mission to honor and preserve his father’s legacy and artwork.   

At the heart of the film is the beautiful work of De Niro, Sr., which will be exhibited in Park City at the Julie Nester Gallery during the Sundance Film Festival.  These vibrant paintings remind us that art movements can be so powerful that they can obscure the work of talented artists who don’t fit the genre.  

In REMEMBERING THE ARTIST, Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art, art advisor Megan Fox Kelly, and fellow artists Albert Kresch and Paul Resika explain how De Niro, Sr.’s professional career fell in and out of step with the American art scene – a scene that change drastically in the years leading up to World War II. In the early 1930’s, avant garde European artists, under political pressure from the Nazi party, came to the U.S and took up teaching positions, exposing young American art students to the newest trends in European art.  One of the most important of these teachers was Hans Hofmann, an Abstract Expressionist who set up schools in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts where an entire generation of young American painters studied.  De Niro, Sr. studied in Provincetown and New York with Hoffman who called him one of the most promising students he ever had.  De Niro, Sr.’s two shows at Guggenheim’s Art of This Century followed.  At a young age, he had found his artistic voice and was greatly admired by his colleagues.  He was part of the celebrated New York School of artists who were well-known during the 1940's and 50's in New York City. His paintings blended abstract and expressionist styles with a representational subject matter, bridging the divide between European Modernism and Abstract Expressionism.

De Niro Sr.’s initial success was short-lived as his work was eclipsed first by the American Abstract Expressionist painters and later by the emergence of Pop Art. As the art world embraced these new movements in the late 1950s and early 1960's, more traditional painters like De Niro were marginalized. De Niro went to Paris to immerse himself in the art of the masters and enliven his own work and career. But the art market of post-war France offered little opportunity for De Niro. He returned to the United States and continued to paint in relative obscurity until his death from prostate cancer in 1993 in his 71st birthday. He found solace writing about his hopes and dreams in his journals, hoping that one-day, his work would be re-discovered and afforded the critical acclaim that had eluded him throughout his career, even if after his death.   

REMEMBERING THE ARTIST also traces De Niro Sr.’s personal story from his childhood in Syracuse, NY where he felt misunderstood by his demanding father, to his marriage to Virginia Admiral, an up-and-coming painter herself whom he met at Hofmann’s school, to the birth of his child, Robert De Niro, Jr. in 1943.   When De Niro, Jr. was a toddler, his parents separated, likely because of De Niro, Sr.’s unacknowledged homosexuality. They would, however, always remain close.  As De Niro Jr., grew up he watched his father’s career disappointments and bouts of depression.  De Niro, Jr. movingly talks of the irony of dealing with the early days of his own success as an actor while taking trips to France to try to help his father, literally carrying paintings under his arm from art gallery to art gallery   Robert De Niro, Jr. has remained committed to honoring his father’s legacy after his death, maintaining his art studio as it was when his father worked there so that his children will appreciate their grandfather’s work.  

REMEMBERING THE ARTIST was directed by Perri Peltz and Geeta Gandbhir and produced by Perri Peltz.  Rudy Valdez served as director of photography and Geeta Gandbhir served as editor.  Megan Fox Kelly served as Art Advisor.  Music is by Phillip Glass.

For more information about the film, visit