Robert De Niro, Sr.: Opulence of Restraint

Robert De Niro, Sr., Seated Nude with Green Pants, 1970, oil on linen, 36 x 28 i
Robert De Niro, Sr., Seated Nude with Green Pants, 1970, oil on linen, 36 x 28 inches (courtesy of DC Moore Gallery)

Jennifer Samet reviews Robert De Niro, Sr. Paintings and Drawings 1948-1989 at DC Moore Gallery, New York (through July 31) and the film Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro, Sr. which premiered on HBO on June 9.

Samet writes that the "defining characteristic of De Niro’s work is the line: the arabesque that rounds the form of the female figure, the guitar, the vase, and the brusque angles that define table edges, houses, windows. He uses these marks even to cover deeply saturated color areas. These gestural outlines have the energy of Abstract Expressionism, yet, if Willem de Kooning deconstructed forms, De Niro put them back together. Perhaps this is why Storr speaks of 'pleasure,' why the painter Paul Resika, interviewed for the film, admires his precociousness... De Niro painted like the French symbolists he admired: a repetition of forms and motifs symbolizing ideals: beauty, sensuality, music, poetry. He was reductive rather than graphic: expressing a feeling rather than a narrative. It is clear from both the quality of his line and his writings on art that he valued understatement. He suggests distinct gestures, figural poses, and objects with an economy of means, accuracy, and reserve."