The Walk Home
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mhampton's picture


Julian Schnabel’s The Walk Home looks like someone walked all over it to get home.

But that’s kind of the point. The surface of the massive 9’3″ x 19’4″ painting is entirely covered in broken plates, tableware, metal, and fiberglass to convey an uneasy journey both in its themes and its creation. A painting like this doesn’t exactly invoke an easy interpretation, but some believe it’s about a king who gets his ass whooped on his way back to the crib. Others disregard the analysis altogether to appreciate the sheer presence of a work of art that combines so many classic elements in a new and surprising way.

Breaking plates and painting on them sounds like something an anger management class in a strip mall would advertise as a new age way to get your feelings out. Not everyone would consider it art. But that’s what made Schnabel so polarizing when he first burst onto the scene. His plate painting style came at a time when art expression was confined to long standing standards. It all hinged on particular forms and concepts. And homie wasn’t about that.

Schnabel wasn’t the only one going against the grain to express his feelings about the world. He was part of a whole damn movement called Neo-Expressionism. This shift in the art scene was all about unconventional intensity, a stark contrast to what it had been just a few years prior. Other artists that participated in the jarring evolution were Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente. It might seem a little complicated, as art frequently is, but at the heart of it all, Neo-Expressionists simply felt there was unfinished business with the old ways of doing things. That’s how you get gigantic mixed media paintings on uneven surfaces. Their art showed the world that there’s more than one way to talk about life’s most relatable things.

Even though this ‘regression’ as some would call it, pissed a lot of people off, it also changed the landscape of the art world in a way that no one saw coming. A lot of times, artists aren’t fully appreciated until after they die. But not these dudes. Their raw expression was either lauded or panned, but one thing was constant: their willingness to retrace history with their own narrative left a lot of people talking.

The Walk Home in particular, is regarded as Schnabel’s best work of art. Mostly because it embodies the spirit of the Neo-Expressionist movement. You don’t have to just paint on a canvas to be considered an artist. You can paint on anything. If you look at it with those eyes, The Walk Home could convey a journey of form, as you can only see how far you’ve come by reflecting on how much you’ve changed.



  1. The Art Story. “Neo-Expressionism”. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  2. Kramer, Hilton. “Art: Neo-Expressionism of George Baselitz.” New York Times, March 26, 1982.
  3. Landscaping San Diego. “His Most Famous Painting (The Walk Home) - Julian Schnabel” June 12, 2017. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  4. Rudokas, Michael. “Don’t Hate The Player, New Perspectives on Julian Schnabel.” Art Agency, Partners. November 9, 2017. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  5. Smith, Roberta. “Painting From the 1980’s, When Brash Met Flash.” New York Times, February 9, 2017.