Robert De Niro (search) got choked up at an exhibit of paintings by his father in northeastern France.

"This is a magnificent exhibit," said De Niro, whose father, Robert De Niro Sr. (search), passed away more than a decade ago.

"I'm sad that my father is not here," De Niro said Saturday, dabbing his eyes.

The 56-painting exhibit, in the recently opened La Piscine Museum in the town of Roubaix, is the first European retrospective of the elder De Niro's paintings.

Hundreds gathered outside the museum, housed in a renovated Art Deco poolhouse, hoping to spot the actor.

In the 60s, the elder De Niro spent several years living in France, studying Matisse, Manet, Gaugin, Bonnard and other painters who influenced his work.

"He said that painting is love and sensuality. He expressed these feelings with color," said art critic Valere Bertrand, who attended the opening.