De Niro pays tribute to father at retrospective

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Robert De Niro Jr, Oscar winner and famed method actor, has been happy to take a supporting role for once as a gallery in Bilbao has staged a retrospective of his father, Robert De Niro Senior's work.

To anyone familiar with both men, it was a case of crazy perfectionist actor son celebrating crazy perfectionist painter father.

"The truth is that there is no painter like my father," the actor said at the opening of the one-month exhibition at the BBK gallery in the northwestern Spanish city, noting that he has several of his abstract expressionist paintings hanging in his New York home.

The painter, who died in 1993 at the age of 71 after a life marked by recurring bouts of depression, was well known for an almost obsessive focus on perfection. He would often draw scores of studies before embarking on a canvas. Later in the process he he had the habit of painting over his works repeatedly until he was finally satisfied and willing to present his work publicly.

All of which may sound familiar to those involved with earlier films of the actor son. De Niro Jr famously worked 12-hour days for a month driving cabs around New York City in preparation for his 1976 film, 'Tax', which led many to declare him one of the best film actors of all time. He was similarly serious in his preparations for roles in The Godfather II and for Raging Bull, directed by Marting Scorcese. Before shooting began on the latter, he moved in with his co-star Jo Pesci to know him better and for the closing stages of the film as its subject, real-life boxer Jake La Motta, gets older and slower, De Niro put on 60 pounds in weight.

For now, Mr De Niro, who is 65, is looking towards his offspring and says he wants them to know their grandfather a little better. "I want my children to appreciate the work of their grandfather," he said. "Who knows if any of them will follow in his footsteps? One has shown potential but we'll see what happens." He traveled to Sapin with his second wife Grace Hightower and their ten-year-old son, Elliot.

"We must thank that De Niro came from New York in order to support the exhibition," commented Martine Soria, the curator of the show which closes on 25 September. She added that "his sensitivity towars the work of his father is admirable". Works by Robert de Niro Sr, who counted among his heroes Bonnard, Matisse and Derain, are now in the permanent collections of museums including the Whitney Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Corcoran Gallery in Washington.

His first one-man exhibition came in 1946 at the Peggy Guggenheim's prestigious New York Gallery. The paintings were well received particularly by the highly influentical critic Clement Greenberg. "The originality and force of (De Niro's) temperament demonstrate themselves under an iron control of the plastic elements such as is rarely seen in our time," he wrote.