About the artist

A creative career

Robert Maniscalco

Robert has been a professional creative his entire adult life. Born in 1959 in Detroit, he has lived in New York, New Orleans and currently in Charleston. His commission portraits and fine art are part of over 950 collections throughout North America. In Detroit he hosted Artbeat on PBS and founded the Maniscalco Gallery. As a fine artist, he likes to work in series and missions. Perhaps his most enduring mission is that of a commission portrait artist, immortalizing Supreme Court Justices as well as children and families. In 2014 Robert took on another mission, called The Quench Project, in which he traveled to Haiti, producing numerous paintings, a documentary short (Out of Darkness), along with a companion book (Quench), juxtaposing the Haitian struggle with obtaining fresh water against our society’s obscene wealth inequality. Robert blogs on a wide range of subjects and written two other books, The Fishly and Point of Art. He is an actor/director, writer/playwright, musician/composer and teacher, an Adjunct Professor of fine art and theatre at Charleston Southern University. Robert has expanded his creative milieu to include courtroom sketching, covering the Dylann Roof and Michael Slager trials in Charleston. His multi-disciplinary play, Vincent John Doe, received its world premiere, to rave reviews, during the 2018 and 2019 Piccolo Spoletto Festival.

Extended Biography

To know about the artist, you must first understand Robert’s painting method and style is built on the classical painting traditions of Rembrandt, Velazquez, Hals and Sargent. Like these artists, Robert explores the use of light and shadow as a means of creating mood and achieving character expressively in his subjects. He refers to himself as an Expressive Realist.

Born in Detroit in 1959, he is the son of internationally renowned portrait artist Joseph Maniscalco, with whom he apprenticed during the early 1980’s. He began taking commissions while putting himself through music school at Wayne State University, where, as part of the Schaller studio for clarinet, he earned a BM in performance and a certificate as a music teacher. After graduation, he became active in the Detroit theatre community and doing commission portraits.

He moved to New York City in 1986 where, in addition to his fine art, he also worked as an actor and director on numerous stage, film and TV projects. He was a founding member of The New Renaissance Chamber Artists and was instrumental in the creation and performance of numerous multi-disciplinary works, making his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1992. He returned to Detroit in 1997, after a three year portrait residency in New Orleans, where he became the favorite for judges and family portraits. Back In Detroit he founded the Maniscalco Gallery, which showcased many local and international artists and became a creative force in the city. As host of Art Beat, the critically acclaimed and popular PBS series on Detroit Public Television, he explored the creative process with his celebrated guests.

He has created two DVDs on painting portraits, called The Power of Positive Painting and The Portrait, published The Fishfly, a semi-autobiographical novel about the artist and his struggle to resolve being sexually assaulted as a child. He has since become an advocate for survivors and works for the prevention of CSA by blogging and hosting a FB Group about it. He was one of 200 male survivors who appeared on The Oprah show in 2010. He has returned to making music and plans to create more dreamlike soundscapes in the future.

Though his creative muse has taken many forms he has discovered a common thread which connects them all together. Robert speaks to the basic need we all share to communicate aesthetically about the human condition, particularly the celebration of man’s capacity to overcome great struggle.

View his artist statement


Since 1980, Robert Maniscalco’s exquisite commissioned portraits and fine art have become part of over 950 distinguished private and public collections throughout North America. He shares his remarkable journey toward personal and professional growth and creative self-expression is documented in his book, Point of Art, which explores the artist’s muse, and gets deeply into the creative process itself. In addition to his exquisite portrait art, Robert has created several bodies of work, including Faces of China, Italia, and a series of pastels on velour entitled Chromo Sapient. He continues working on these, as well as a series called Faces of the Lowcountry, featuring the Gullah Giche people and the Carolina Lowcountry. A related series is called, Iconic Charleston. Some of these series have evolved into missions. In the last few years he has been focusing on a mission, called The Quench Project, in which he traveled to Haiti and produced paintings, a documentary short, called Out of Darkness and a companion book, Quench, expressing the Haitian struggle with obtaining fresh water. in partnership with Watermission. The series has expanded to include a explore the endless possibilities on the theme of desire and what it means to quench it.

He is also the doppelganger of the ephemeral artist, NETI, “who is that he is not.” These works explore the deep recesses of the imagination, with whimsical and sometimes dark imagery, which emerges only in the wild wonderful world that is NETI.

Robert has written and performed in a new play, called Vincent John Doe, which asks “what if Vincent Van Gogh somehow showed up in our time?” VJD was part of the Piccolo Spoletto Festival in 2018 and 2019 and received rave reviews.

Robert currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina where he continues his artistic mission. He is married to Cate Maniscalco and has two children, Danny and Mary.



  1. Robert Maniscalco

    I seen your drawings of the Dillion Roth trial and my name is Robert Maniscalco also small world do like your art

    • Robert Maniscalco

      Well hello Robert. Yes, it is a small world. The Dylann Roof trial was a singular moment in my career. Very difficult and inspiring at the same time. Thanks for stopping in.

  2. Dinara Smith

    Interested in taking classes on learning how to paint,art,landscape,portraits,Impressionism. What is your schedule availability? I am available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

    • Robert Maniscalco

      I have classes on Wednesdays and Fridays, periodically. Will be starting up again mid-June/early July. Private lessons are available by appointment.

    • Robert Maniscalco

      I’m thinking of holding classes or private sessions on Zoom until the Covid19 passes over.

  3. Dinara Smith

    Interested in taking some classes. How can I apply for June and July timeframe

    • Robert Maniscalco

      Classes are on hold until mid June, after my play premieres at Piccolo. If you go to my shop, you will find lots of options, including classes and private sessions.

  4. Paula Shapiro-Winter

    Are you the artist I met at the Sargent exhibit on Sunday at The Art Institute?

    • Robert Maniscalco

      No but I could be



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