Julian Schnabel Does Van Gogh

I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t about Van Gogh. I wanted the audience to feel what it was to be him.”

Julian Schnabel’s latest film At Eternity’s Gate chronicles the last two years of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, a time when the artist lived in the south of France, was most prolific and most depressed. Van Gogh is played by Willem Dafoe, who was nominated for Best Actor in a drama at this years’ Golden Globe Awards. The role has also gotten Dafoe an Oscar nomination. He’s had three previous Oscar nominations, but this is his first in the lead actor category.


Willem Dafoe and Julian Schnabel have been friends for thirty years. Schnabel not only taught Dafoe how to paint to prepare him for the role, he also created paintings for the film, to keep it authentic. He repainted the famous self-portrait, of Van Gogh with his pipe, to look like Dafoe as Van Gogh. The film’s title is taken from a painting Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate) that Van Gogh completed just months before his death. At Eternity’s Gate was filmed in the south of France, in the same locations where van Gogh painted.


“I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t about Van Gogh.” Schnabel said, “I wanted the audience to feel what it was to be him.” A few weeks ago, Schnabel married Louise Kugelberg, one of the film’s screenwriters. This is Schnabel’s third marriage. Julian Schnabel has directed films in the past, including The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2007, which garnered four Academy Award nominations and for which Schnabel received a Golden Globe for Best Director. The movie is now in wide release in the U.S.



Julian Schnabel’s Works at VFA

Julian Schnabel’s work is large and textured, much like the artist himself. Schnabel was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951. His family moved to Texas when he was fourteen. After graduating from the University of Houston with a BFA, Schnabel attended the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program.


His plate paintings…large paintings done on a background of broken ceramic plates, gained him international attention. His work is included in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Met, the Guggenheim, the Tate Gallery, London and many other major museums around the world.


In his 1998 View of Dawn series Schnabel combined paint and resin on screenprint, creating a unique surface. We have several versions of the View of Dawn series available in our gallery.


Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Julian Schnabel available at VFA.




Nick Vivarelli. Julian Schnabel on Doing Some van Gogh Paintings Himself for ‘At Eternity’s Gate’. Variety. November 30, 2018.
Brian Welk. How Willem Dafoe Became an ‘Extension’ of ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ Director Julian Schnabel. The Wrap. January 22, 2019.
Matt Grobar. Willem Dafoe Learned How To Paint—And How To See—On ‘At Eternity’s Gate’. Deadline Hollywood. January 2, 2019.
Roger Friedman. Exclusive: Famed Artist and Director Julian Schnabel Marries for a Third Time, to Interior Designer-Film Editor Louise Kugelberg. Showbiz.411. January 7, 2019.

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