Daniel Celentano was born in New York on December 21, 1902, the fifth of fifteen children of Neapolitan immigrants. He lived most of his life in the uptown Manhattan area once called Italian Harlem and much of his work chronicles the people of that neighborhood.
At the age of twelve, Celentano became the first pupil of Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) and later assisted Benton in the execution of several murals. The two artists remained friends throughout their lives. By sixteen, Celentano had won a number of scholarships, one of which enabled him to study for three years at the Cape Cod School of Art under Charles W. Hawthorne (1873-1930). Other grants came from the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, where he studied with Howard Giles (1876-1955), and the National Academy of Design.
Celentano started exhibiting his work in New York City in 1930 when he participated in an exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz's Opportunity Gallery. His success at that exhibition was soon followed by exhibitions at other New York galleries and participation in major museum annuals, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Carnegie Institute. Celentano exhibited six paintings at the Art Exhibition by the Staff Artists of the American Museum of Natural History. One of the paintings exhibited, "Harlem Coal Barges," was selected to illustrate the book Land of the Free by Herbert Agar, published by Houghton Miffin in 1935. In 1936 the Carnegie Institute and the Chicago Art Institute bought works by Celentano which had been exhibited at Walker Galleries. The Whitney Museum of American Art followed suit the next year, purchasing Celentano's entry "First Born" in the museum's biennial exhibition. The Walker Galleries gave Celentano his first one-man exhibition in 1938.
Celentano joined the mural division of the WPA and first worked on a mural for the Queens General Hospital, New York City. Celentano then created his own murals for the Queens Borough Public Library, Flushing Branch ("Commerce," 1936) and P.S. 150 in Queens ("Children in Constructive Recreation and Cultural Activity," 1940). In 1938 he won a commission through the Treasury Department to execute the mural, "The Country Store and Post Office," for the U.S. Post Office in Vidalia, Georgia.
With the outbreak of World War II, Celentano joined the art department of the Grumman Aircraft Corporation in Bethpage, Long Island. There in 1942 he executed a mural entitled "The Flight of Man" which depicts the advancement of transportation and communications from ancient times to present. The mural is now at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island.
Daniel Celentano's work can be found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia.