Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh's Grave) X

Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh's Grave) X
oil, ceramic plates and Bondo on panel, in two parts
overall: 96 x 120 x 8 ¾ in. (243.8 x 304 .8 x 21.8 cm.)
Executed in 2016.
Vito Schnabel Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2017
Pace Gallery, New York, Julian Schnabel: New Plate Paintings, February-March 2017.
Sale room notice
Please note the provenance for this lot should read "Vito Schnabel Gallery, New York; Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2017" and not as stated in the printed catalogue.

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Lot Essay

"Taken together, Julian Schnabel’s canvases are a garden illuminated by perception, which is all Gertrude Stein’s “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” was about—how we look at what we look at how to make seeing into words. Schnabel’s masterly Rose Paintings series, executed in 2015–17, are blooms that will never die on the vine, let alone the vine of thought. The works are a description of the ephemeral—flowers as forces in nature that expire to blossom again. By using materials meant to last—oil, paint, Bondo on wood—Schnabel creates concrete forms out of that which is meant to return to the ground. In these works, he excavates flowers, those captives of time that die with time, and makes them timeless, in pictures that draw on nature to make of it what the artist will—and does. Schnabel makes paintings that are illustrative of his nature."
(Hilton Als, "Blooms", Julian Schnabel, Plate Paintings, New York, 2017)

I was driving into the driveway of our house in Montauk and looked Julian Schnabel’s Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh’s Grave) X is a monumental diptych that reformulates the artist’s unique medium. Schnabel started to incorporate broken crockery into his work early in his forty-year career, and in the mid-2010s revisited it alongside an homage to the Post-Impressionist icon Vincent van Gogh. In the revised iteration, the plate shards are incorporated under layers of paint and Bondo (an automotive putty product) to create Schnabel’s unmistakable textures. Schnabel is known to work en plein-air, and the atmosphere of Auvers-sur-Oise, France, where van Gogh was buried, pervades the present work with verdant solemnity. At the top of the canvas, Schnabel uses grey interspersed with green in order to create the soil. Its gradient extends through the grass, made textured and rocky by the plate shards. The two conjoined canvases meet in the middle to suggest a Barnett Newman-like zip. It is as if Rose Painting is two conjoined monuments to van Gogh, each one with its own unique topography.

Rose Painting is a self-citation that refers to the series that made Schnabel a household name, the Plate Paintings (1978—). His first solo show of paintings was mounted at New York’s formative Mary Boone Gallery in 1979, which immediately became a pivotal exhibition in the art world. Schnabel’s paintings held their own in a discourse that came to be dominated by conceptual photography. The plate paintings challenged the prevailing notion of the medium’s macho vapidness or sentimentality. Rose Painting, in fact, evinces the opposite: it is tender but not clichéd, muscular but not self-serious.

For Schnabel, Rose Painting is an homage to his hero Vincent van Gogh that he would expand in his acclaimed film At Eternity’s Gate (2018), which earned Willem Dafoe an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Two years after the creation of the present work, Schnabel was invited by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to curate a selection of works in their collection from the nineteenth century. He included van Gogh’s Portrait de l’Artiste (1889), perhaps the most famous of his self-portraits. We can see van Gogh’s textured pigments in Rose Painting, which likewise uses green to stunning effect. Interestingly, van Gogh was known to collect Japanese ukiyo-e prints that were intended to be diptychs and triptychs, making Schnabel’s homage not only a thematic one, but also a formal and technical one.

One of the most stimulating artist’s working today, his paintings remain as relevant as ever. Rose Painting, a standout in one of the artist’s most important recent series, is as much a memorial as a beginning. From paint and found materials, Schnabel does not build a mausoleum, but rather a field of possibilities that draws a throughline between the late nineteenth-century to the present. Schnabel is the heir to this art historical lineage, and with it he offers us paintings that are at once contemporary and mythical.

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