‘Schnabel’s paintings are objects that have sculptural presence, by virtue of their size, their frame, their weight, their three dimensionality, or the different materials used in composing them. Like a piece of furniture, the painting’s proportions are directly related to their surroundings’
– Max Hollein
An opulent example from Julian Schnabel’s acclaimed series of Velvet Paintings, The Misunderstood One, 1986, is as enigmatic and emotive as its title. At over two metres tall, Schnabel has painted a larger-than-life contraption of interconnected golden bells set against a lush velvet black; in the background, horizontal pink lines streak and vanish. Characteristic of Schnabel’s practice, the painting is overpowering and possesses what art historian Max Hollein calls a ‘raw, instinctive quality…that gives his works a rare intensity and aura’, owing in part to the seemingly fragmentary and isolated central motif (M. Hollein, ‘The Works and Their Viewers’, Julian Schnabel: Malerei/ Paintings 1978 – 2003, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, p. 37). By the year of 1986, Schnabel was an established presence on the New York art scene, known for his neo-expressionist paintings which placed his work in dialogue with that of Georg Baselitz among others; the next year would bring a retrospective of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art. As with his Plate Paintings, the Velvet series transforms the established conventions of the fat pictorial plane. The Misunderstood One appears to crackle and fizz with a psychological charge, both as image and as a material surface, the black velvet emanating a mesmeric enchantment.