Virginia Admiral

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Virginia Admiral
Virginia Admiral.png
Virginia Holton Admiral[1]

(1915-02-04)February 4, 1915
DiedJuly 27, 2000(2000-07-27) (aged 85)
Robert De Niro Sr.
(m. 1942; div. 1945)
ChildrenRobert De Niro Jr.

Virginia Holton Admiral or Virginia De Niro (February 4, 1915 – July 27, 2000) was an American painter, poet and the mother of actor Robert De Niro. She studied painting under Hans Hofmann in New York, and her work was included in the Peggy Guggenheim collection.

Life and work[edit]

Admiral was born in Oregon, the daughter of Alice Caroline (née Groman), a school teacher, and Donald Admiral, a grain broker. Admiral was raised as a Presbyterian but later became an atheist during her adulthood. Her father had English, Irish, German, French, and Dutch ancestry, and her mother was of German descent.[2] In 1920, she was residing in Danville, Illinois according to the census, with her parents and younger sister, Eleanor. By 1930, Virginia's parents had divorced and she was living with her mother and sister in Berkeley, California. While in Berkeley, her mother became a school teacher.

She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under Hans Hofmann. In 1938, she worked on the Federal Art Project, in Oakland, California.[3] While living in Berkeley, California, she had been part of an off-campus art, socialist, and literary scene. Having traveled together from California to Greenwich Village, New York, Admiral was an intimate friend of poet Robert Duncan throughout the 1940s as well as other artists and writers in the Village scene. Among them was Anais Nin and Kenneth Patchen. With Duncan, she produced an issue of the magazine Epitaph (later renamed The Experimental Review).[4]

Admiral, a painter, met Robert De Niro Sr., an aspiring artist, at one of Hans Hofmann's painting classes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. They first moved into an loft apartment on E. 14th Street, then later to an apartment on 8th Street, and then settled into one on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. They married in December 1942. In August 1943, Virginia gave birth to their son, award-winning actor and director, Robert De Niro Jr.[5]

For a time she worked as a typist for Anaïs Nin.[6] Both she and husband Robert wrote erotica briefly for Nin. She and Robert De Niro divorced in 1945, but remained close throughout their lives. When Robert Sr. was stricken with cancer, she took him in during his last years.[7] Later, in New York, she wrote for True Crimes magazine.[4]

In 1942, Admiral exhibited her art in the Springs Salon for Young Artists at Peggy Guggenheim's "Art of This Century Gallery" in Manhattan. That same year she sold a painting to the Museum of Modern Art for $100. She was the first of her artist cohort to sell a painting to the Modern; Jackson Pollock had his first sale to the museum only two years later.[8] She had a solo show at the same gallery in 1946 and her work was included in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection at the Venice Biennale in 1947. In later years, from 1973 to 1980, her art showed at Buecker and Harpsichords gallery.[3]

She was active in political movements against the Vietnam War and for the rights of artists and the poor. In the 1960s she was instrumental in obtaining low-cost housing for artists working in the SoHo area of New York.[3] Her work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.


  1. ^ University of California, Berkeley (1933). Commencement Programs.
  2. ^ Biography for Michael Douglas on IMDb
  3. ^ a b c "Virginia Admiral, 85, Painter and Writer". The New York Times. August 15, 2000.
  4. ^ a b "Virginia Admiral; Artist, Mother of Robert DeNiro". Los Angeles Times. 2000-08-16. Retrieved 2014-11-20.
  5. ^ Robert De Niro - Biography,
  6. ^ Turner, Christopher (March 19, 2009). "The bohemian life of Robert De Niro, senior". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Turner, Christopher (Summer 2009). "An elegant mind". Modern Painters. 21 (5).


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