Friday, April 13, 2012

The artist, Thomas Kinkade.

Lombard Street - Thomas Kinkade

Self proclaimed 'painter of light'.

The news of Kinkade's death led national news last weekend.  Many bloggers have discussed the man and his art since, some of the more serious discussion I found interesting.  Personally I thought most of his work to be too sentimental and more Hallmark gift card art than fine art, albeit suitable for reproduction, signing and framing.  Actually Kinkade was a very skilled painter and an astonishing marketing expert.  Artists normally are not known for their business capabilities, but Kinkade came close to being the Steve Jobs of the commercial art world. 

Despite what critics say, I think Kinkade's style of painting may best be described as neo-post-impressionist - especially his more serious work - views of New York and Nascar paintings.  Otherwise the fantasy cottages and landscapes, though skillfully executed, are pretty much what I used to call department store fine art.  (When I was in school I honestly hoped to paint as well... I continue to hope.)  Buyers from major stores such as Macy's and Marshall Fields scouted post-war European capitols, especially Paris and Rome, up until the early '60's, buying up the work of street artists, who painted in the always popular and very saleable, post-impressionist style of Édouard Cortès, among others.  Department store Fine Art-Pictures and Mirrors departments were filled with such paintings - some were very good - and I've seen a few make it on Antiques Road Show with a nice auction estimate.  A lot of it is good art. 

Kinkade pretty much did the same thing with his product - 1980's+ style of course: marketing, reproduction of original works, and licensing.  Knocking out signed and numbered, sofa-sized reproductions just like the wild life galleries did for the wild-life/hunting market.  Kincade's select market was much wider however.  He sold no-place-like-home/oh-what-a-beautiful-card fantasies of heaven on earth, while making a good Christian, born-again, post-impressionist impression upon old fashioned,  dysfunctional, home-sick hearts, who never lived like that.  His work appealed to the same bourgeois taste which loved Cortès and all the other post-impressionist painters ever since.  That is not a bad thing, BTW.

That said, no doubt about it, he was a talented man; a skilled painter and and a brilliant marketeer.  Nothing wrong with that.  RIP.

Flower Market At La Madeleine - Edouard Cortes.

UPDATE: I came across a really good critique of Kinkade at First Things by Joe Carter.  Check it out.


  1. "That said, no doubt about it, he was a talented man; a skilled painter and and a brilliant marketeer. Nothing wrong with that. RIP."
    I agree. People (who likely never painted a stroke in their lives) pan Kinkade because he's no DaVinci. But I don't think that was his aim. What I see is that he pretty much painted in one style his whole professional career. I wonder if he ever branched out, or went in new directions in his personal studio; or did paintings not meant for the mass market. I would personally find it pretty boring to do the same thing all the time.
    Anyway, if people saw something in his pictures to lift their spirits, that's a good thing to be remembered for.

  2. Had to go look up Cortès (now I know who painted all those street scenes - thanks)

    Anyhoo, I think art is communication and he communicated something people are missing in their lives. As our world gets weirder, more and more people will flock toward that sort of "feel-good" art.

    I've seen some of his originals and was really impressed with his skill. Loved to get up close and personal and study his techniques. His paintings are not as bright as the prints.

    My confession? He paints the sort of things I like to paint. He just does it waaaaaaaaay better!

  3. I agree with both of you. Personally I prefer his city paintings. Some critics make a big deal of his personal life, failures, ambitions and so on - I don't understand why - we are all human.

  4. I respect the man and his talent even though his work isn't to my own tastes. I see his work and immediately think of greeting cards and christmas villages on tables...The above painting of Lombard street in San Francisco speaks loudly of what I think he wished to convey as you said Terry: sentimentality

    It's difficult for me to imagine so many American flags waving from windows in San Francisco but I digress. There is no doubt that the man was talented. I have a greater appreciation for artists who paint the world as they themselves see it. I don't know whether it could be said that Mr Kinkaid did that. He painted (in my opinion) an idealized version of America and the world of how we as Americans like to see it. I think he mean't more to uplift people out of the dismal banality of everyday life.

  5. He has painted better than the Lombard St. image.

  6. Perhaps he paints what he thinks we should aspire to...

  7. Though I wouldn't really want Kinkade's work on my wall, I do like looking at it - I admire his skill. I wish I had one ounce of his ability when it comes to painting houses and churches, or really anything architectural. And he obviously understood landscapes. His passing is sad news.


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