Actor Robert De Niro’s parents were both artists with the WPA in New York in the 1930s when the arts program helped many get through the Depression. Other WPA artists then included Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Robert De Niro Sr.’s art works made news recently when the actor took control as manager of his father’s art legacy. His mother, Virginia Admiral, was a poet as well as a painter. Both parents belonged to the Greenwich Village art community. This article about New York abstract expressionism recounts the roots of that group in the Federal Art Project; the 2006 De Kooning biography gives a good feel for it.
August 2014 postscript: A new HBO documentary about Robert De Niro, Sr. traces his beginnings and study with Hans Hofmann in Massachusetts, his promising first exhibitions, as well as his later struggles and his relationship with his son. Watch the trailer at www.rememberingtheartist.com.