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The Dying of the Light
April 6, 2012 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Thomas Kinkade, the "Painter of Light" and one of the most popular artists in America, died suddenly Friday at his Los Gatos home. He was 54.

Thomas Kinkade on MeFi.
posted by darkstar (162 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
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Snarky jokes about hokey art aside, 54 is too damn young to have an obit.

I'm gonna go call my folks ASAP
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


Go into the Light™, Thomas.
posted by hermitosis at 9:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [35 favorites]


All righty, then. As I was saying...

"I'm a warrior for light," Kinkade told the Mercury News in 2002

Wow. I was only vaguely aware of the guy -- heard his name mentioned every now and then and knew he was a popular artist -- but self-aggrandizing on that scale when your body of work is pretty much made for 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles? Sure, they're pretty, but wow.

Well, at least he left his family well provided-for.
posted by Gator at 9:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess the light has gone out? Or maybe it was never there to begin with? In any case, 54 is young, no matter how much people disrespect you.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:31 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


.
posted by rahnefan at 9:31 PM on April 6, 2012


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posted by shakespeherian at 9:31 PM on April 6, 2012


I am sorry for his family and friends, who will no doubt miss him greatly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:31 PM on April 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:35 PM on April 6, 2012


He would visit studio executives but also got to know all the homeless people in Los Gatos. He read classic books but also enjoyed shooting and blowing up things on his ranch.
Sounds like an interesting guy.
proclivity for ritual territory marking through urination, once relieving himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim while saying "This one’s for you, Walt."
I'm starting to like this guy.
he openly groped a woman's breasts at a South Bend, Indiana sales event
Maybe not so much.
Seems like the guy either had a drinking problem or some psychological issues. Possibly both, due to self medication.

.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:37 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


My Facebook feed has suddenly filled with people from my hometown keening over his death -- and lamenting that now they won't be able to afford to add to their collections.
posted by hermitosis at 9:38 PM on April 6, 2012


This is a sad day for people who shop for art at the mall.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:39 PM on April 6, 2012 [67 favorites]


That obit is very strange.

The family's statement begins with saying that he "provided a wonderful life for his family" and they're leaving the country immediately?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:40 PM on April 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


One of my friends used to say his paintings were so full of light it was as if Lucifer was inside them shoveling up the fiery coals of hell.
posted by Corduroy at 9:44 PM on April 6, 2012 [27 favorites]


take 2-

A tragic loss for art. But the master's death opens the way for his natural successor: Jon A. McNaughton, Painter of Trite.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:45 PM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Kincade may not have been someone I personally respected either as an artist or as a man, but he nevertheless brought a harmless pleasure in art to many people, and I'm both sorry to see that go out of the world and sympathetic to his family.
posted by tyllwin at 9:45 PM on April 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


One of my friends used to say his paintings were so full of light it was as if Lucifer was inside them shoveling up the fiery coals of hell.

If Kinkade's idea of God exists, then I am surely going to Hell, and I certainly expect my fiery cell to be adorned with Kinkade's collected works.
posted by unSane at 9:48 PM on April 6, 2012


yes, that. I'd rather live in a world with art I don't care for than a world with no art. Art isn't a zero sum game. If anything, bad* art only helps how much better good art is.

*relatively speaking, of course. I'm not arguing that you can objectively determine the goodness or badness of art.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:49 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2012


Are those three early paintings from the article's slideshow really awesome? Or is it just me?
posted by librarina at 9:52 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I line up for a corporate shuttle every morning and while I wait -- gripping my coffee -- wonder about the painter of light rendering the headshop in whose doorway I'm waiting.
posted by Alles at 9:54 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"His paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States."

I'd like to see some demographics on those homes.
posted by pracowity at 9:57 PM on April 6, 2012


Codpiece! Codpiece!

.
posted by JimmyJames at 9:58 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


He was kitschy, but it was pleasant kitsch. Compare another figure who died way too young: Keith Haring.
posted by Yakuman at 10:00 PM on April 6, 2012


. /glowing
posted by scratch at 10:02 PM on April 6, 2012


You mean Keith Haring, The Painter of Grace Jones.
posted by hermitosis at 10:04 PM on April 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I agree, unSane, that as a public figure he will be no loss. But his family and friends presumably knew different aspects of him than the general public and his employees--whom by many accounts he treated shamefully--did. Losing a father or a son or a brother at 54 is sad and shocking, and I am sorry for the people experiencing those losses.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:13 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's sad to see anyone go, especially that young. I can't really snark about this, even though he gave the world this.
posted by JHarris at 10:18 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never heard of this guy before today. (Maybe I live in a cave?) From what I read, it sounds like he is the Domino's Pizza of art. Just like Dominos is not good pizza, but is taste good food, this guy made art for the masses. Why all the hate on that. Sure, he was a scum bag of a person apparently, but he brought art to the masses. Sorry to his family and friends and those who collected his work.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:21 PM on April 6, 2012


His work was completely NOT of my taste - but he seemed to approach his art with simple and genuine earnestness. He's kind of the Being There of the art world.

54 for is pretty young to die suddenly.
posted by helmutdog at 10:21 PM on April 6, 2012


but he seemed to approach his art with simple and genuine earnestness.

I think with further research you'll find the opposite is true. He deliberately marketed himself to a niche and produced work that would sell to that niche, sometimes exploiting it with a ruthlessness that can seem cynical. His skills as an artist notably deteriorated as a result.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:24 PM on April 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I worked in an art gallery in a mall in the mid-nineties and hated Kinkade's work back then, it was so commercial and tasteless. It was an institution then, that I'm surprised to find out now that he is as young as he was, I assumed he had been around much longer with the popularity he had back then. I had no idea that he was so young.

I do have to hand it to him, I may have not liked his art, but he certainly had a knack for understanding how to make innoffensive art that would appeal to housewives all over the country.

.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:25 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never could quite understand the "Didn't think much of him but sorry for his family..." comments. How many millions of people you've never heard of die every day, leaving behind families you aren't sorry for? How many millions die young? Either you give a shit about this person or you don't. His family and their feeling are no different than any other.
posted by Jimbob at 10:25 PM on April 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


innoffensive art that would appeal to housewives all over the country.

Nice.
posted by jvilter at 10:28 PM on April 6, 2012


and produced work that would sell to that niche, sometimes exploiting it with a ruthlessness that can seem cynical

So he was pretty much like a lot of the greatest artists in that respect.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


[Yeah, obviously, Metafilter has been no fan of Thomas Kinkade and hasn't been shy about proclaiming it fairly exhaustively, but it would be to our credit to resist using an obit thread to drive the point home yet once again as forcefully as possible. Nobody is required to weigh in here, so maybe think about how you want to participate if you choose to comment.]
posted by taz at 10:36 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


He was kitschy as all get out, and maybe made some questionable decisions. On the other hand, my dad died last year at 55 and I wouldn't wish it on anyone's family.

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posted by dhens at 10:38 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


His family and their feeling are no different than any other.

No, of course not. But people see a thread like this, and feel, that as social animals, they should comment on the man's passing. Expressing sympathy for the family is a formulaic ritual gesture. It doesn't mean special sympathy for that particular family over and above those in similar circumstances.
posted by tyllwin at 10:44 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't mean special sympathy for that particular family over and above those in similar circumstances.

I guess that's better than (or equal to) nothing!
posted by hermitosis at 10:51 PM on April 6, 2012


Really, 54 is far too young to die. May Mr Kincade rest in peace.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So he was pretty much like a lot of the greatest artists in that respect.

What?
posted by polymodus at 10:55 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Helping a friend run an estate sale. Lots of typical crapola. 3 floors (including basement). In the living room was a butt ugly Kinkade painting. My friend had a high price on it. I laughed at him. I said I would buy lunch for his entire crew if anyone bought it for his asking price. About midway through the sale - someone bought the freaking thing.

RIP Kinkade. You owe me lunch on the other side.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:56 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I really respect his ability to construct narratives in order to secure a significant audience, i wonder about drinking or drugs though.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:57 PM on April 6, 2012


There was a 60 minutes special on him years ago (video) and that was the first time I had actually met the guy. There's a scene I remember from that video where he puts on a performance glove and starts autographing a huge stack of prints. He's got assistants in an assembly line too, so all he has to do is wave his arm a bit for each one. All this so that he can sell them for a bit more.

Also interesting: prints will have certain parts of them re-painted, some of them by random people he's hired, and some by Kinkaid himself (IIRC), and depending on who highlighted what, the price went up.

So he's not only doing the whole "art as a product" bit, but adding options, like one would for a car or something (accessories sold separately!) which I thought was deviously but brilliantly capitalistic of him.

RIP dude.
posted by hellojed at 10:58 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


What?

I thought I was pretty clear; a lot of artists we would consider great cynically went after money. That doesn't mean Kinkade was great, but it does mean that liking money isn't evidence he wasn't.
posted by Justinian at 10:58 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the first time I saw one of his pictures was in the back of Parade Magazine. I must admit, I liked it.

Something about the light (no really), it looked warm to me. I took me back to being a kid coming home from his paper route in January.

God then I read all about the guy, the weirdo christian MLM stuff, the fact he just had flunkies paint the "light" in, in strip mall backrooms right before a sale.

I dont know anything about art. On a good day, maybe how to spell it. But I know Kinkade's art is dumb. It's Walm-Art (OK you see what I did there right?"

For the guy himself? Whatever. For the notion it aint a bad thing to rack out a coupla hundred million. Hooya.

In the end, I guess it would be nice to be remembered for curing something people die of, or a good sports win, but every once in a while a guy suits up and says,

"Yeah, I'm going to be creepy millionaire mall painting guy."

Just so we don't have to.

If for nothing else, just get out of bed and tell yourself,

"At least I ain't that guy."
posted by timsteil at 11:01 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Was a time you couldn't throw a rock here on the Monterey peninsula without hitting some sort of Kinkade gallery or showroom. The Thomas Kinkade Museum and Cultural Center across from City Hall was open for less than a year, and the when the sign on the wall out front (attached with double-stick foam tape) fell off shortly after it closed, yours truly swept in for the harvest; the sign now resides under the hanging mannequin legs on the front porch. The Thomas Kinkade National Archive over on Lighthouse Avenue is still a going concern I think, but is closed most of the time. It has an awesome sign.
posted by squalor at 11:02 PM on April 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


I thought I was pretty clear; a lot of artists we would consider great cynically went after money. That doesn't mean Kinkade was great, but it does mean that liking money isn't evidence he wasn't.

That's news to me. Which names did you have in mind?
posted by polymodus at 11:03 PM on April 6, 2012


I experienced a lot of schadenfreude after a couple of his more public follies (the company's bankruptcy, the drunken driving arrest), but yeah, this is just sad.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:03 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Locally AKA "Painter of Light, Filer of Bankruptcy, Driver of Drunk".
posted by squalor at 11:05 PM on April 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm not sure why, but I find this very weird for some reason. Perhaps it's because he wasn't the right kind of artist to die that young. No disrespect intended.
And, I think, there will be little dribbles of weirdness to come concerning Mr Kinkade for quite some time.

And,
for his natural successor: Jon A. McNaughton, Painter of Trite.
One of the few times in my entire life when I wish I did not see what I just saw.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:13 PM on April 6, 2012


Alright, we get it, mefites. You have Taste.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:14 PM on April 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


That's news to me. Which names did you have in mind?

Throw a dart at a list and you'd probably hit one. Raphael? Michaelangelo? And that's just painters. Dickens? And so on?
posted by Justinian at 11:14 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not arguing that you can objectively determine the goodness or badness of art.

Don't say that in front of art historians or museum curators. Yes, there are objective standards.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:17 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


One more: not to get all Godwin here, but Kinkade's work is similar to A.H.'s paintings in that both seemed unable to bring themselves to render a detailed human figure. It's all landscapes and architecture with no discernible people anywhere in the frame, like some sort of conceptual neutron bomb had been recently detonated.
posted by squalor at 11:35 PM on April 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


my step-mom had a really crummy, abusive upbringing that led to an abusive first marriage. she seemed to lose herself in her love of christmas, thomas kincaid, and a perfect cup of tea when things got too bad. to her, those things are filled with warmth and light and love. kincaid not my taste, but i am grateful that he brought happiness to someone i care for. she'll be sad today and that makes me sad.
posted by nadawi at 11:38 PM on April 6, 2012 [34 favorites]


squalor - i have a relative who is a professional artist and his art also features no people, no animals, just beautiful landscapes and cityscapes. i've never considered the lack of people before...the idea of it being post catastrophe is an interesting one.
posted by nadawi at 11:41 PM on April 6, 2012


One of my friends used to say his paintings were so full of light it was as if Lucifer was inside them shoveling up the fiery coals of hell.
A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.

--Joan Didion
posted by Rhaomi at 11:47 PM on April 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


Throw a dart at a list and you'd probably hit one. Raphael? Michaelangelo? And that's just painters. Dickens? And so on?

Charles Dickens was a cultural critic. If you're going to call him a hypocrite, I'm going to need more statistical evidence or a source! Better yet, how about a citation to your original assertion?
posted by polymodus at 11:47 PM on April 6, 2012


"He was kitschy, but it was pleasant kitsch. Compare another figure who died way too young: Keith Haring."

Uh, OK, Haring was a sharply critical political artist who used idioms of street art to make trenchant comments on gay identity, the AIDS crisis, Reaganomics, while still remaining accessible to the general public. Kinkade was kitch, poorly composed and treacly manufactured in a cynical bid to emotionally manipulate a popular audience by appealing to regressive tropes with ostensibly earnestness. They were very little alike in skill, subject or sincerity, and comparing the two is like comparing Subway with a real deli sandwich.
posted by klangklangston at 11:48 PM on April 6, 2012 [40 favorites]


LobsterMitten: "That obit is very strange.

The family's statement begins with saying that he "provided a wonderful life for his family" and they're leaving the country immediately?
"

Gotta take that "wonderful life" to a "wonderful life haven" before the "Wonderful Life Service" gets wind of it.
posted by Splunge at 12:01 AM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Everyone understands that you can't actually paint light, yes?
posted by tigrefacile at 12:12 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


he brought art to the masses

Hardly, but you sure are bringing the LULZ.

-----

I'm not arguing that you can objectively determine the goodness or badness of art.

You should be. Making a conclusive case for a specific criterion might be beyond anyone's ability, but holding that it is possible to make objective judgments is the superior position.

-----

proclivity for ritual territory marking through urination, once relieving himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim while saying "This one’s for you, Walt."

I did not know this. Unlike his "art", I can respect that.

-----

Everyone understands that you can't actually paint light, yes?

I thought it was all that one could paint.
posted by BigSky at 12:17 AM on April 7, 2012


but holding that it is possible to make objective judgments is the superior position.
Superior to what? And why?

Can you even make your own statement objectively?

Show me an artifact disentangled from its cultural context, and I'll show you craft and engineering. Art does not exist separate from culture, and cultural judgements are always subjective. Claiming that you can make objective judgments about art may have utility if you are trying to sell your services to someone who doesn't have time to sufficiently immerse themselves in the relevant context. But then you are putting yourself in a position that is no more philosophically sound than simply claiming that you are better informed and have sufficiently refined judgment.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:43 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tried to remain respectful until I saw this tweet from Ken "Jeopardy Millionaire and King of Triviality" Jennings...
I hope Andrew Wyeth is kicking the crap out of Thomas Kinkade right now.

That's some of the strongest language I've seen from him (but then again, he is a Mormon and they aren't known for their respect for the dead).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:50 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surely this will mark the end of the sofa-sizists period.
posted by hal9k at 12:51 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Despite Kinkade's death, his paintings will live on.

These Obits write themselves
posted by mattoxic at 12:55 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been looking at some his paintings through Google Image search, and yeah they're gaudy and kinda sickeningly sweet in a way (that quote upthread about how every window in his paintings makes it look like the building inside is on fire is totally true), but as I said in my first-ever front page post, about Diane Warren, it still takes talent to produce "dreck". On a purely technical level, as a musician and someone who has the drawing skills of a mediocre 7 year-old, I have to say he is a very talented man.
posted by MattMangels at 1:02 AM on April 7, 2012


I'm with Didion. He painted subjects so non-threatening that they seemed sinister.
posted by telstar at 1:26 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


librarina: Are those three early paintings from the article's slideshow really awesome? Or is it just me?
The one called "Indian Jewelry" (slide #8) looks fantastic too. Perhaps the US actually lost a great painter, but that one had died years before.
posted by elgilito at 2:04 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This article shows a few of his better works.

While Kinkaide did not paint the type of art I like, I do actually own two lighthouses with is work on them that my Granny gave me for Christmas. They aren't my style, but since she gave them to me I will always cherish them. Especially now as she slips further and further into dementia and closer to the end of her days.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:33 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have no problem with kitschy popular art in general, but I can never look at Kinkade's work without wondering what scenes of domestic violence and turpitude are festering within. It's almost as if the paintings exist to contain the misery of the human condition in fancy colorful parcels, like gift-wrapped turds. Maybe that's the whole point.

Anyway. All sympathy to his family, but it speaks volumes about the brand that his official website carries no mention whatsoever about his untimely demise. It's just business as usual over there.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 3:07 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify - this isn't snark. Any artwork that can provoke such a strong reaction in a new context is probably a success on some level.
.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 3:28 AM on April 7, 2012


Taz - you should be making that statement in bigger font, not smaller.

.
posted by victory_laser at 3:48 AM on April 7, 2012


One more: not to get all Godwin here, but Kinkade's work is similar to A.H.'s paintings in that both seemed unable to bring themselves to render a detailed human figure. It's all landscapes and architecture with no discernible people anywhere in the frame, like some sort of conceptual neutron bomb had been recently detonated.

There is a parallel universe in which having a Hitler above your hearth is considered the height of bourgeois bad taste.
posted by acb at 4:18 AM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Anyone holding, now is the chance to sell - might actually recoup purchase price.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:39 AM on April 7, 2012


Mehr Licht. Nicht Mehr.
posted by FunGus at 4:43 AM on April 7, 2012


Anyone holding, now is the chance to sell - might actually recoup purchase price.

Fuck, I KNEW I shouldn't have traded all my Kinkade prints for Beanie Babies and Pogs.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:51 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Are those three early paintings from the article's slideshow really awesome? Or is it just me?

I thought they were pretty good, too. Interesting how his career evolved.
posted by TedW at 4:55 AM on April 7, 2012


The entire subject of Thomas Kinkade is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. - Jed Perl
posted by R. Mutt at 4:55 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I bought my mother a piece of his work as a birthday gift. She was so happy with it, she forgot how late it was, for which I was very grateful.
posted by newdaddy at 5:33 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I made a friend about a year ago and we have lots of things in common and have fun hanging out. She told me she's an art collector so I was utterly taken aback when I walked into her living room for the first time to see the centrepiece of her collection - this Thomas Kinkade rendition of Graceland. She loves it, and not in any ironic way. She paid a shitload of money for it, at the 'Kinkade Gallery' at a mall. The rest of her collection is also Kinkade's work, all of which makes me want to stab my eyes out. She took my look of open-mouthed horror as admiration, and she's such a good friend I've never let her know my true feelings.
posted by essexjan at 5:42 AM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Susan Orleans | The New Yorker | October 2001 -- 'Art for Everybody.'
By and large, art critics consider Thomas Kinkade a commercial hack whose work is mawkish and suspiciously fluorescent, and whose genius is not for art but for marketing -- for creating an "editions pyramid" of his prints, each level up a little more expensive, which whips up collectors' appetites the way retiring Beanie Babies did. This view annoys Kinkade no end, and he will talk your ear off -- even talk through the company's strictly enforced one-hour interview limit -- about the ugliness and nihilism of modern art and its irrelevance compared to the life-affirming populism of his work. He will point out that he has built the largest art-based company in the history of the world, and that ten million people have purchased a Kinkade product, at one of three hundred and fifty Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries that carry his limited-edition prints, or through his Web site, or at one of the five thousand retail outlets that sell Kinkade-licensed products, including cards, puzzles, mugs, blankets, books, La-Z-Boys, accessory pieces, calendars, and night-lights. Last year, Media Arts Group had a hundred and thirty-two million dollars in revenues. It has been traded -- first on the Nasdaq, then on the New York Stock Exchange -- since 1994, making Kinkade the only artist to be a small-cap equity issue. He owns thirty-seven per cent of the company, which makes him, by his calculations, one of the wealthiest artists in the world.

Kinkade is forty-three years old. He has short, brushy brown hair, a short, brushy brown mustache, a chest as broad as a beer keg, and a leisurely and booming laugh. If you see his paintings before you meet him, you might expect him to be wispy and pixie-like, but he is as brawny and good-natured as the neighborhood butcher. He has the buoyant self-assurance of someone who started poor and obscure but has always been sure he would end up rich and famous. He is so self-assured that he predicts it's just a matter of time before the art world comes around to appreciating him. In fact, he bet me a million dollars that a major museum will hold a Thomas Kinkade retrospective in his lifetime.

.... Kinkade's commercial awakening occurred in 1989, when he formed Lightpost Publishing with a business partner, Ken Raasch. His paintings were selling well, but he decided that he wanted "to engulf as many hearts as possible with art," a goal that would be hindered by selling only original work. Instead, Kinkade opened a chain of galleries and began producing high-quality digital reproductions of his paintings on specially treated paper, which sold for a few hundred dollars each. A digital image could also be soaked in water, peeled off the paper, and affixed to a stretched canvas, so that it showed the texture of the canvas the way a real painting would. These canvas transfers could be sold as they were, or they could be accented with paint by a master highlighter or by a special apprentice to Kinkade ("Studio Proofs" and "Renaissance Editions") or by Kinkade himself ("Masters Editions"); the transfers now fetch anywhere from fifteen hundred dollars for the standard numbered editions to thirty-four thousand dollars for the prints that Kinkade highlighted himself. The originals were no longer for sale at any price, and the number of each edition was restricted, and the image was "suspended" once it was sold out.

.... People like to own things they think are valuable, and they are titillated by the prospect that the things they own might be even more valuable than they thought. The high price of limited editions is part of their appeal: it implies that they are choice and exclusive, and that only a certain class of people will be able to afford them -- a limited edition of people with taste and discernment.

"I created a system of marketing compatible with American art," Kinkade said to me recently. "I believe in 'aspire to' art. I want my work to be available but not common. I want it to be a dignified component of everyday life. It's good to dream about things. It's like dreaming of owning a Rolex and instead, you dream about owning a seventy-five-thousand-dollar print." In fact, a lot of limited- edition art is about dreaming; so many of the paintings portray wistful images of a noble and romantic past that never was, or the anti-intellectual innocence of fairies and animals, or mythical heroes who can never fail and never fade.

.... "Thom will go to a gallery, and twenty-five hundred people will show up," Fleming said. "He speaks for about thirty minutes, and afterward they come up to him and talk. It's very emotional, some of them are crying and saying, 'Here's how you have affected me.'" He paused and then gestured toward a large Kinkade hanging in his office. "We believe that the walls of the home are the new frontier for branding. Thom always says that there are forty walls in the average home. Our job is to fill them."
posted by ericb at 5:48 AM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


"His paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States."

I've evidently only been in 19 homes in my lifetime. I would have estimated it was more than that.
posted by HuronBob at 5:49 AM on April 7, 2012


> In fact, he bet me a million dollars that a major museum will hold a Thomas Kinkade retrospective in his lifetime.

So did this happen?
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:50 AM on April 7, 2012


Susan Orleans has written several articles over the years about Thomas Kinkade.
Art for Everybody
Art for Anybody
Profile of Thomas Kinkade in My Kind of Place

. for Kinkade's family.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:55 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jed Perl | The New Republic | Bullshit Heaven -- book review: Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall by Alexis L. Boylan.
posted by ericb at 5:56 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


>In fact, he bet me a million dollars that a major museum will hold a Thomas Kinkade retrospective in his lifetime.

So did this happen?

According to the Art for Anybody article, no.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:58 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


librarina: Are those three early paintings from the article's slideshow really awesome? Or is it just me?

Kinkade actually used to be a background painter for / protege of Ralph Bakshi. True fact!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:16 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kinkade was also the artist of choice to capture the historic mansion Biltmore House on canvas.

Oh god. There is a huge, ornate print of a painting of the Biltmore House in my office that I have never paid much attention to before.
posted by something something at 6:21 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Janelle Brown | Salon.com | Ticky-tacky houses from “The Painter of Light™” -- "Hiddenbrooke, a development 'inspired' by Thomas Kinkade, ain't exactly ye olde quainte village it bills itself."
posted by ericb at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This stuff isn't to my taste, either, but neither are comments about housewives and demographics that change this from an obit thread with a natural opinions-of-his-art angle to a thread about Those People Who Like That Thing I Don't Like, which is my least favorite cultural discussion, always. I think the mistake that's made far too often is assuming that everyone who buys a Thomas Kinkade painting does it because they believe it to be great art in the same way people who care about great art define that term. In other words, the scorn comes from an assumption that Kinkade purchasers buy and display Thomas Kinkade paintings believing them to be interesting, moving, innovative, thoughtful, and challenging -- and therefore, they must be stupid.

I firmly believe people buy Thomas Kinkade paintings (and associated merch) because they find them pretty and charming. They're not arguing the upholstery on the couch is art, only that it looks nice and they like it. Obviously, it's important not to confuse simple decoration with art or popularity with quality, but when people buy something as pleasing decoration, it strikes me as ungenerous to mock them for believing it to be great art.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:26 AM on April 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


Nobody could paint uniforms like Dan Gregory.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:28 AM on April 7, 2012


I give a shit for all the families of all the people I've never heard of who die, actually. If we had a MeFi thread every day saying "Unknown millions died today" I would be reminded of my shit-giving.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:32 AM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I firmly believe people buy Thomas Kinkade paintings (and associated merch) because they find them pretty and charming.

Mike McGee, director of the Grand Central Art Center at California State University Fullerton:
"Looking just at the paintings themselves it is obvious that they are technically competent. Kinkade's genius, however, is in his capacity to identify and fulfill the needs and desires of his target audience—he cites his mother as a key influence and archetypal audience — and to couple this with savvy marketing ... If Kinkade's art is principally about ideas, and I think it is, it could be suggested that he is a Conceptual artist. All he would have to do to solidify this position would be to make an announcement that the beliefs he has expounded are just Duchampian posturing to achieve his successes. But this will never happen. Kinkade earnestly believes in his faith in God and his personal agenda as an artist."
posted by ericb at 6:38 AM on April 7, 2012


He was my age. I'm finding it hard to feel smug right now.
posted by tommasz at 6:40 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


.

because "each man's death diminishes me," style of thing.

That said -- what was his family's statement trying to convey? The "provided a wonderful life for his family" thing . . . if that was two paragraphs down in a press release full of other sentiments, then it wouldn't look so strange. As it is, it's straight from the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" school. It seems like a statement that a publicist would issue on behalf of a prominent ex-wife who was in the middle of contentious divorce proceedings with the decedent. I am assuming that this is not the case with the Kinkades.

(As for going to Australia, I also assume that being in the middle of a number of 10+ hour international flights isn't something you can turn on a dime, even in the case of sudden family deaths, so I don't suppose that's all that sinister.)

At least once a day, I have to look at a Kinkade painting that's hung on a certain office wall, and if the printer below it is putting out a long document, I'll find myself thinking about it. It's a Boston street scene, apparently painted by someone whose knowledge of Boston is limited to a few reference photos and American History 101. State Street is picturesque with snowmelt, pedestrians and hot dog vendors in a way that I have never seen it, and yet the clothing and vehicles don't suggest that it's a specifically period piece. In fact, as much as I've looked at it, I can't tell what time period it is actually supposed to be set in. There's some cars . . . some horses . . . things are nice . . . guy in a modern trenchcoat . . . what is this place, Kinkade? Where are we?

None of these concerns of mine are, of course, important. The man did a job of work, and there it is; it pleases those that it is meant to please. Can I honestly say as much of my own writing?
posted by Countess Elena at 6:45 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


This stuff isn't to my taste, either, but neither are comments about housewives and demographics that change this from an obit thread with a natural opinions-of-his-art angle to a thread about Those People Who Like That Thing I Don't Like, which is my least favorite cultural discussion, always. I think the mistake that's made far too often is assuming that everyone who buys a Thomas Kinkade painting does it because they believe it to be great art in the same way people who care about great art define that term. In other words, the scorn comes from an assumption that Kinkade purchasers buy and display Thomas Kinkade paintings believing them to be interesting, moving, innovative, thoughtful, and challenging -- and therefore, they must be stupid.

I firmly believe people buy Thomas Kinkade paintings (and associated merch) because they find them pretty and charming. They're not arguing the upholstery on the couch is art, only that it looks nice and they like it. Obviously, it's important not to confuse simple decoration with art or popularity with quality, but when people buy something as pleasing decoration, it strikes me as ungenerous to mock them for believing it to be great art.


I think you are dead on there. There is capital-A Art, where Serious Artists challenge [something] and break new ground and do things because it gives the artist some kind of fulfillment, and those who don't enjoy it are philistines. But the rest of art, the vast majority of it really, is meant to somehow entertain the audience. Paintings to make living and working spaces comfortable and nice looking. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is just as high, or a higher form of art as the above Art, because it is in some sense easy to create something that makes the artist happy, but it is much harder to create something that others actually enjoy.

It reminds me of the people who look down their noses at television. "[scoff-noise] I don't even *know* where my TV is! Such mindless dreck! When I want to watch a program, I stream the whole series on my iPad!"
posted by gjc at 6:46 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


At least once a day, I have to look at a Kinkade painting that's hung on a certain office wall, and if the printer below it is putting out a long document, I'll find myself thinking about it. It's a Boston street scene, apparently painted by someone whose knowledge of Boston is limited to a few reference photos and American History 101. State Street is picturesque with snowmelt, pedestrians and hot dog vendors in a way that I have never seen it, and yet the clothing and vehicles don't suggest that it's a specifically period piece. In fact, as much as I've looked at it, I can't tell what time period it is actually supposed to be set in. There's some cars . . . some horses . . . things are nice . . . guy in a modern trenchcoat . . . what is this place, Kinkade? Where are we?

I think that's the point of it. A certain style of timelessness that is the opposite of a documentary type of image like this one. There is a type of comfort in that.
posted by gjc at 7:07 AM on April 7, 2012


It's a Boston street scene, apparently painted by someone whose knowledge of Boston is limited to a few reference photos and American History 101.

Actually, that's an accurate landscape portrayal (photo) of a scene (Kincade's painting) of the Boston Common, heading toward the Park Street Station T-stop, with the Boston Common Church (on the corner of Park and Tremont) with One Boston Place (in the background behind the steeple).
posted by ericb at 7:20 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


ericb: fair enough, you're right. There are new buildings there that made it difficult for me to place. Still an odd depiction.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:28 AM on April 7, 2012


That obit is very strange.

The family's statement begins with saying that he "provided a wonderful life for his family" and they're leaving the country immediately?


His family was in Australia at the time.

Not a fan of his art, but sorry for his friends and family ... and yeah, too young.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:30 AM on April 7, 2012


Clever post title.

I would shamelessly own a Kinkaide for the kitsch value. That's very hipster of me to feel. But it's like dogs playing poker ora velvet Elvis.

.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:38 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Renoroc at 7:42 AM on April 7, 2012


But the rest of art, the vast majority of it really, is meant to somehow entertain the audience. Paintings to make living and working spaces comfortable and nice looking. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is just as high, or a higher form of art as the above Art, because it is in some sense easy to create something that makes the artist happy, but it is much harder to create something that others actually enjoy.

Right. So, 'Three's Company' ranks just as high, or perhaps even higher than 'Raging Bull'. What a pity that the excellence of McDonalds is not more widely recognized. After all, they unlike so many failures have done the difficult work of creating something that others actually enjoy.
posted by BigSky at 7:42 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Of the many species of collectors, the kind known as "collectors of collectables" are the most scorned by those who fancy themselves to be real collectors. But money is money, and Kinkade earned my admiration for the way he grokked the motivations of his particular sub-species of collector, and leveraged those desires into a successful business model. The paintings are almost beside the point - the skill with which he monetized every iteration of every painting he produced is, in fact, a piece of art in itself.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 7:50 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The level of snark and disdain in this thread is ridiculous Metafilter. Kinkaide's artwork appeals to people because it is warm and comforting. If you don't like it, just move along. There's no need to ridicule people through subtle barbs toward "housewives" or "middle America".
posted by tgrundke at 7:55 AM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


A hat tip to a guy who looked deep in to the howling void of America's soul and understood that selling mass produced art with a faux-Christian bent in a mall gallery would not only make you a millionaire, but cause people to break in to weeping fits of emotion.
posted by codacorolla at 7:59 AM on April 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


So, 'Three's Company' ranks just as high, or perhaps even higher than 'Raging Bull'. What a pity that the excellence of McDonalds is not more widely recognized. After all, they unlike so many failures have done the difficult work of creating something that others actually enjoy.

Way to miss the point, that point being: sure, McDonald's and Three's Company and Thomas Kinkaide are all of a kind, but WHO CARES? I have eaten fast food and laughed at stupid sitcoms and cried at stupid movies designed to make me cry, and I didn't do any of those things because I was in pursuit of Great Art. Sometimes you want something completely, totally unchallenging. Sometimes you want a nice, warm blanket of grease and sugar and schlock. Let the people have their schlock!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:04 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


People younger than I should not die...

.
posted by bjgeiger at 8:09 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not a fan but people I love are and they will will be sad.

.
posted by djeo at 8:13 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, he wasn't a genius like Sherrie Levine, or Catherine Opie, or Carl Andre, or Dan Flavin, but his work did bring joy to a lot of people. Doesn't that count for something?
posted by mrhappy at 8:45 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're going to call him a hypocrite,

If I were going to call Dickens a hypocrite I would have called him a hypocrite. I said he liked money and catered in some ways to his audience. That is self-evident from the way he tailored his serialized work based on the reactions of the public!
posted by Justinian at 9:07 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thomas Kinkade was the J.M.W. Turner of the 20th Century.

You heard me, England.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:10 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Damnit, I swear I thought I was jabbing my Damien Hirst voudou doll with a shark's tooth. I usually only singe the Kinkade doll with high powered lasers.

Ah, well. *goes back to prodding small, metallic Jeff Koons simulcra with a lit welding rod*
posted by loquacious at 9:16 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I first started seeing his stuff I though he was someone who had trained under Bill Alexander or Bob Ross.

The thing that I didn't like about the whole enterprise was the "Dare to be Stupidtm" aspect of it all. "You're the real America. Nobody can't tell you what's art and what iddn't."

Wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

I just noticed it's my dad's birthday. He died young, too.
posted by Trochanter at 9:32 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I can't add much new to this ongoing discussion of the Kinkade aesthetic, perhaps I can still reprint its ambivalence in my studio, while adding value with a few new, "original" hand-tinted touches.

On the one hand, in a world where Jeff Koons is a certified Serious Artist it's not Kinkade who's committed the real aesthetic crimes. There's even something almost weirdly admirable, in the grand Melvillean tradition of American confidence-men and hucksters, about becoming a zillionaire by retailing a creepily vacuous fairytale world as a banal comfort to aging Jesus Campers. And anyhow, as people have said here already, this thread seems to protest a bit too much, as if we were all deeply concerned that no one mistake us for the kind of people who'd like Kinkade, because we know better — there's a kind of status-anxiety at the root of it, I guess, scorning Kinkade being an easy way of demonstrating that one went to the right kind of college and learned to have Good Middlebrow Taste there.

On the other hand, you know, the feeling of revulsion the work inspires is hard to wish away that simply. The vacant, soulless, unapologetic and yet somehow un-self-aware kitschiness in the Chicken Soup for the Reactionary Xenophobe's Soul worldview that the paintings express, combined with the bizarre mass-produced-originality branding and marketing scheme that made them into more than a (thatched) cottage industry — all this does seem worth scorning for its own sake, or for the sake of actual art, or for the sake of its resistance to commodification.
posted by RogerB at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


.

Talent, notoriety, and millions aside, he was living in that particular anteroom of hell that is the wreckage of alcoholism, with his family, business, health and reputation all apparently on the rocks. There but for the grace of god . . .
posted by Anitanola at 10:16 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's worse - someone who produces something that some people think is cheesy and tacky or the ugly snobbery that said people display when discussing it? You don't have to like it - but just move on. To not only mock it, but to mock it by bringing in everyones' favorite targets - middle America! Housewives! LOLOL! is shitty behavior that is more classless than what you're actually mocking. I'll take ten Thomas Kinkaids over any one of those culture vultures any day.

my step-mom had a really crummy, abusive upbringing that led to an abusive first marriage. she seemed to lose herself in her love of christmas, thomas kincaid, and a perfect cup of tea when things got too bad. to her, those things are filled with warmth and light and love. kincaid not my taste, but i am grateful that he brought happiness to someone i care for. she'll be sad today and that makes me sad.

People who can have this kind of an impact on others matter, whether you like it or not.

And from the man himself:

"With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel."

I do think we could use more, not less, of this in the world today - regardless of the medium it uses.

.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:23 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing is, triggerfinger, I'm not sure that's a fair portrait of who Thomas Kincaid was. Snobbery is certainly ugly, and there's been some ugly stuff in this thread, yes - the comment about housewives, for instance.

But I have to say that in the end I really doubt that Mr Kincaid was actually being sincere when he said that about wanting to "penetrate the darkness people feel," except maybe in some vulgar euphemistic sense. A reading of his chief proclivities - shooting things and blowing them up, getting as drunk as possible in public and pissing on things, engaging in what is in fact sexual assault - seems to paint a picture of a man who was a good deal more cynical and less reverent than he pretended to be in promotional interviews. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that Mr Kincaid secretly despised those people who loved his paintings so much.

He's not alone in this. There are plenty of artists who do the same sorts of things, artists we focus on for their works rather than their unfortunate failings. The difference here, of course, is that a lot of us just dislike Mr Kincaid's work, and would like an excuse to tear into him, too.

It's interesting; I have a feeling the impact of an artist's work often ends up having very little to do with their own intentions. I think it's most likely that Thomas Kincaid was a cynic who painted what he painted for the cash it would bring him. And I still don't believe that his work will ever be any great jewel of our civilization. However, if he brought some happiness to some people, that's no small thing. At the end of someone's life, when all this stuff is accounted for, even the inadvertant good deeds they did should be remembered.

And nobody can deny that Thomas Kincaid was an interesting guy, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 11:16 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


One thing I should say is that I have no problem with what Kinkade was trying to do in his paintings. I like that comfy cozy romantic stuff. I like Rockwell. I like the Wyeths and the rest of the Brandywine folks. But, I don't think Kinkade did what he did especially well. I think nameless Disney staff layout and background artists do this sort of thing way better, and have been for a century. Bambi, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan. A thousand beautiful paintings per picture by men and women just slugging away in the Disney artist's equivalent of a cubicle.

As a human being, I have nothing against the guy. I don't even hate him as an entrepreneur. Whatever.

But his paintings are weak. As Bill Alexander used to say, in his charming German accent: "You gots to have darks in order so that light will show."
posted by Trochanter at 11:39 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not really bothered by what people choose to hang on walls that aren't mine, but I'd much rather live in a Hopper painting than a Kincade.
posted by rtha at 11:53 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Susan Orleans | The New Yorker | October 2001 -- 'Art for Everybody.'

Something about Kinkade's Christian entrepreneurial boosterism is strongly reminiscent of Babbitry and Mormonism.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:40 PM on April 7, 2012


Okay, the housewives comment was unfair of me. But it really was who was buying them where I worked (and the husbands were buying Limited Edition Football paintings).

However, having worked in a place that sold commercial limited edition prints, I think Kinkade's art kind of represented the worst of that industry - painting that had no soul because they were meant to appeal to a large audience. In and of itself, that isn't a problem, as pointed out, many things are mass produced for a wide audience and it is a good thing.

The problem was in the signed limited edition scam. There was this idea put in the buyers head that being signed and LE meant that it was worth more, and it was an investment, and it would go up in value some day. A $30 poster became a $300 "painting". Plus now you had an excuse to upgrade the framing to include all the acid free mattings to make sure to preserve the value of said "painting".

Often, you could buy the same exact painting in a poster form as you could as a signed and numbered version. So people would buy banal art an overinflated price under the impression that they will have something worth more than they paid for it later. And of course, this CAN happen if the artist gets insanely famous, but the art being sold as this type of limited addition comercial art, the Kincades of this industry, it doesn't happen. Their art has mass appeal so the make massive copies of them.

First the LE run, then the poster run. But the consumer is duped into believing the Limited Edition is something special they should invest in. But in order for it to work, the art has to have a broad appeal, meaning it will never have that special something that vaults the work into something truly unique and sought after enough to make it worth something. Instead, if the limited edition runs out, the consumer just waits until that artist makes a nearly identical painting later on.

This isn't just Kincade - there are more artists I've forgot than I remember that do this, but Kincade seemed to have cornered the market on sweatly sappy paintings that had mass appeal and broke down the marketing to a science.

Not that he deserved to die so young, no one does. But his art and the industry that it sold in kind of stunk.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry that he's dead at such an early age but his marketing scheme was to purposefully confuse people's understanding of the difference between a print and a reproduction. He sold tarted up posters. Also, the term giclée "print" is bullshit.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:49 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm always sorry - or perhaps the more accurate word is alarmed - to hear of anyone who died so young. But I'm not going to waste a tear on Thomas Kinkade. Did you know he was also an author? And his books are exactly as you would expect: literary forms of his (schlocky, horrific, vapid, sentimental, pandering and freakily terrifying) paintings. No, I'm sorry, I don't think that because you have brought "joy" - or maybe joy™ or light™ (as hermitosis so brilliantly observed upthread) into somebody's life that you get a pass for the really hideous stuff you've foisted on the world.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:05 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


My wife did her master's thesis on kitsch and on Kinkade and Koons in particular. We attended an event of his in Santa Clara and met him and his family. He seemed very friendly and signed my wife's copy of his book. His daughter also drew a unicorn in it.

Clearly he had his own demons he was contesting with, and maybe his work seems antithetical to some of his more egregious offenses, but being able to inspire comfort in some viewers and terror in others with a painting of a pastoral cottage speaks volumes to his artistic ability, I'd say.
posted by Durhey at 2:32 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


A reading of his chief proclivities - shooting things and blowing them up, getting as drunk as possible in public and pissing on things, engaging in what is in fact sexual assault - seems to paint a picture of a man who was a good deal more cynical and less reverent than he pretended to be in promotional interviews

Okay, that's fair enough. Maybe they were empty words. I had a different reading of him than you did and I wondered if all his talk about bringing light to darkness wasn't a projection of what he was feeling onto his fans. His behavior, business practices and cynical exploitation of his target market are valid and interesting discussions - which some people in this thread are having. But these things aren't really about the merit or lack thereof of his paintings. Inevitably though, people come out and make it (in large part) about taste, and when we're talking about taste, that leads us to making fun of the usual easy targets - middle aged women, Christians, flyover states, whatever. It's the laughing at the dumb, unsophisticated people when we could be having a better discussion that bothers me. MeFi does this a sometimes, whether we're talking about Thomas Kinkaid or Olive Garden, and it really bothers me. It's a really unattractive trait and I knew from the last Thomas Kinkaid thread that I would see it again in this one.

Anyway, I was really surprised when I read that he'd died this morning, because I remembered him as not being all that old. I was shocked and saddened that someone so young could die of seemingly natural causes.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:47 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Something about Kinkade's Christian entrepreneurial boosterism is strongly reminiscent of Babbitry and Mormonism.

The same strain runs through much of American Christianity in the age of the Prosperity Gospel, where in-group religious identity and Wal-Mart consumerism have to be squared (and where a sense that the Lord is going to make you rich if you believe hard enough can be very profitable to a lot of stakeholders in the status quo).
posted by acb at 3:37 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


He was the same age as my husband. Too young.

I prefer to think of him as a commercial artist. I wasn't buying what he was selling though.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2012


triggerfinger, the last thing we need more of in the world today is exploitative hucksters dressing their chicanery up in the language of altruism and spirituality. We've got a big enough supply even without Kinkade.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:53 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kincade, now there was a painter. He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon. Two coats!
posted by hal9k at 4:02 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was the same age as my husband. Too young.

Yikes! He was the same age as me!

I am not often forced to think about Kinkade's art, but reading this thread and thinking about it some I would have to conclude that 99.9% of the art sold to be hung on the walls of our homes and offices is crap-- most of it souless crap. Walk into any Michaels art store or World Market and riffle through the prints for sale-- inoffensive, forgettable art meant to match the carpet and sofa. If forced, I would actually prefer to buy one of Kinkade's cottage prints rather than something from a department store because it at least gives you something to look at-- even if it is something sinister and unsettling.

I feel a teeny bit sorry for the guy-- even in his obit thread his name has been misspelled every which way possible.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2012


We bought my mother a reproduction of Kinkade's painting commemorating Disneyland's 50th anniversary. So feel free to slam me twice as hard from the cultural snobbery viewpoint.

It makes her smile. So it's worth it.

((.)) -- glowing dot
posted by ladygypsy at 5:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am not often forced to think about Kinkade's art, but reading this thread and thinking about it some I would have to conclude that 99.9% of the art sold to be hung on the walls of our homes and offices is crap-- most of it souless crap. Walk into any Michaels art store or World Market and riffle through the prints for sale-- inoffensive, forgettable art meant to match the carpet and sofa.

And yet, 99.9% of talented artists give up because they're unable to make a living doing their art. That is the problem. It's Gresham's Law, bad art pushes good art out of the market.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:10 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can tell you why bad art drives good, price.

Yeah 54 too young.

.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:12 PM on April 7, 2012


II am not often forced to think about Kinkade's art, but reading this thread and thinking about it some I would have to conclude that 99.9% of the art sold to be hung on the walls of our homes and offices is crap

And yet, most movies, books and music are also soulless crap. Why, I wonder, do people feel so vehement that a painting must be "art" when we don't demand that of the other arts? (Is it because of the word "art?" In English, we call every painter an "artist"and then insist that they live up to it. There's not a similar linguistic demand made on authors and film directors.)
posted by Wordwoman at 7:15 PM on April 7, 2012


My mom owns seven Kinkades and is very shocked at this. I keep wondering "was it heart attack or uh...some drug?" Also, yeah, seems weird that you'd LEAVE for Australia on the same day your husband/father died, tickets or no.

I dunno...I don't have strong feelings about his art in itself. I got kind of tired of being dragged around to various Kinkade galleries during my parents' Kinkade phase, and remember being very unimpressed the one time we saw him in person. Even my mom thought he was kind of a douche and their phase kind of died out after that. But... eh, I've seen worse art, and if someday I shockingly make money off of my Kinkade inheritance, okay then. Mostly what bothered me about Kinkade was the douchey personality.

But I seriously wonder what's going to happen to all of those remaining Kinkade galleries. Are they going to make tons of money and then flame out now, or what?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:17 PM on April 7, 2012


Kinkade's art will become truly collectable in a generation or two, much as Margaret Keane's big eyed cartoonish characters from the '60s are now. Hip retronauts of the future will be scouring flea markets and happy to score a true Kinkade original. And those limited editions truly will become more valuable.

I doubt many of the people who bought into it from the get go -- as many people in my own family have, because of the safety and warmth and the painter's professed Christianity -- will profit from this. The first round will be bequeathed to nostalgic children and embarrassed grandchildren of the original purchasers, who in turn will give them up in garage sales, happy to part with that dreck.

But many of these paintings are going to end up being the proud centerpiece of a young hipster's living room art collection, halfway between irony and true appreciation. This will be true in 40-50 years' time, mark my words.
posted by scelerat at 7:19 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


40-50 years' time

It's already true.
posted by unSane at 7:46 PM on April 7, 2012


Kinkade became hip during the life of this thread.
posted by telstar at 9:34 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


54. Yikes, that's young, too young. Simply as a human being, my thoughts go out to his children, wife, friends and relatives.

It feels like mourning a master of spam, like Oh noes, PHARM 77 of the viagra ads died.

Kinkade was a master of visual glurge. You know, that schlock that comes with chain emails from well meaning elderly relatives that makes me want to snap like Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets: Where do they teach you to talk like this? In some Panama City "Sailor wanna hump-hump" bar, or is it getaway day and your last shot at his whiskey? Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here.

People buy, have bought, vinyl siding, asbestos insulation, artery clogging junk food, just because companies make big bucks selling it and people buy that stuff, doesn't mean it's healthy for them.

His work seems to have attracted a cultic following with him conning people into buying digital versions, pretending to be better than that.

> A digital image could also be soaked in water, peeled off the paper, and affixed to a stretched canvas, so that it showed the texture of the canvas the way a real painting would. These canvas transfers could be sold as they were, or they could be accented with paint by a master highlighter or by a special apprentice to Kinkade ("Studio Proofs" and "Renaissance Editions") or by Kinkade himself ("Masters Editions"); the transfers now fetch anywhere from fifteen hundred dollars for the standard numbered editions to thirty-four thousand dollars for the prints that Kinkade highlighted himself.

As a person within our culture, my sympathy for him ends. I think he harmed the world, was a pictoral version of the GW Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld regime brainwashing, what the wool looked like that was pulled over gullible folks eyes. Visuals for sheeple. That hokey crap he painted is dangerous and not in a good way. Big eyed cutsie poo is silly, art-by-the-yard, seascapes decoration for doctors' offices is trite but the Kinkade kitsch has some magnetism to it, a seductiveness like a drug. Its cult devotees are like addicts of the banal, who do not want to look deeply, thoughtfully at the world, examine the complexities of authentic life. Ambien for the soul. Not good.
posted by nickyskye at 12:58 AM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not a fan of Kincaide's art or his business practices. However, I admire and respect the good feelings he stimulated in his customers.

My condolences go out to his family and friends, and his fans who mourn his loss. You don't have to like the man or his work to feel compassion for those suffering because of his death.

On another note, I think Kincaide was a really gifted painter and a deeply unhappy man. His drinking and acting out, combined with his interview performance show a cynicism and self-loathing that's hard to miss.

Before you throw rocks, the paintings that demonstrate his real artistry aren't the "cozy houses" that provoke sneers from the snobs. He put out a book of impressionistic plein air paintings that he thought would open his career to a purer more artistic kind of painting... but it didn't sell well.

I've often thought that Kincaide was a talented painter torn between his rock-star success, and his true artistic calling which would doom him to obscurity. An unhappy man who died too young.
posted by ScarletPumpernickel at 1:24 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


His family's statement was at least honest, to paraphrase: "we enjoy spending his money".

Kinkade's legacy (the correct spelling, I checked) will be right up there with Beanie Babies and Lincoln Mint limited edition plates. And perhaps in years to come, a Chinese fast food chain will buy remaining examples to hang on their restaurant walls for teenagers to laugh at.
posted by epo at 2:26 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am reading this thread and looking at a book about Seurat over on a bookshelf. There was an artist who died too young at 32. Going to page through that book now.
posted by mlis at 10:04 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Before you throw rocks, the paintings that demonstrate his real artistry aren't the "cozy houses" that provoke sneers from the snobs. He put out a book of impressionistic plein air paintings that he thought would open his career to a purer more artistic kind of painting... but it didn't sell well.

Maybe they didn't sell well because they're crap. If you suddenly switch from kitsch to "serious" art and compare yourself to Corot and Church, nobody is going to take you seriously. And oh man are those paintings crap, they're even worse than his kitsch. Being a "painter of light" is great if you're Monet painting haystacks in 1890, but if you do that today, you're an anachronism. If you take your anachronism seriously, you are ridiculous. Maybe Kinkade even realized this, but that didn't stop him from being pathetic.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:41 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting to read James Gurney's post about Thomas Kinkade's life. James is a fantastic artist who runs a wonderful art blog called Gurney Journey. He posted:

On another -- and much sadder note -- I just received word that my old friend Tom Kinkade passed on this morning. It will take me a little while to absorb the news, but I'll share some thoughts about his life and art with you in a future post.
posted by yaymukund at 11:43 AM on April 8, 2012


When we were house hunting a couple of years ago we looked at a house that had some paintings similar to these of Kinkade-like underwater scenes featuring dolphins and in lurid colors, all by the same artist. The striking thing was: there must have been 25 of them--several in each room of the house. We ended up buying the house; the sellers moved...to the desert.
posted by neuron at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2012


Sounds like Wyland, Hawaii's prefiguration of Kinkade who blew up in the '80s. He focused on selling prints and lithos to tourists from a string of strip mall galleries, usually next to a Crazy Shirts t-shirt shop. Heavily advertised on visitors channels etc. Reef murals, side views of dolphins cavorting with sea turtles and whatnot. Some sculpture too, IIRC. Not one off. Probably widely represented in condo and timeshare decoration as well.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2012


Upon googling, I'm not sure he's just a Hawaii thing.

http://www.wyland.com/
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


These canvas transfers could be sold as they were, or they could be accented with paint by a master highlighter or by a special apprentice to Kinkade

Heh, we did this to ANY print you bought for a small fee (probably under $50). We didn't use paint, just a gel coat that would look like brush strokes in the appropriate places. (as opposed to the ones that we could order which were just random patterns). It was a lot of fun for us working there, but it was really cheese. A couple of regulars really LOVED this and would repeatedly buy posters and have us "add brush strokes".
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:39 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Autopsy scheduled for painter Thomas Kinkade.
posted by ericb at 7:47 AM on April 9, 2012


Sounds like Wyland, Hawaii's prefiguration of Kinkade who blew up in the '80s.

Oh shit. When you said that, I had to go look, and I think I had a part in that. Back in the 80s I was one of the first Iris inkjet print techs at a studio in LA. We worked in graphic arts, we used the Iris for proofing and design work, and I hated the new "giclee" crap people like Graham Nash were pushing as equivalent to fine art printing. I hated that because they promoted Iris ink jets as archival, they are not, nor will any inkjet process ever be archival in the sense used by fine art archivists. And I was (and still am) working in archival photo processes and inkjet was devaluing it. That was a battle I would lose, eventually.

But anyway.. one day we got a call from Nash Editions. They have an Iris and they have a client they can't handle. They have done everything possible but they can't get the colors right, the client is having a fit. I had a good laugh that our competitor had to call us to save their ass. Then they sent over the file. It was a high rez scan of a large format transparency of a kitschy underwater scene full of dolphins and whales, and little glowing bubbles and shafts of mystical light penetrating the water. It was full of intense blues and purples, just the sort of colors a CMYK print process can't capture with any intensity. So I did some color corrections, pulled down everything away from the top end cyan-magentas, and made everything relative to the top purples. I had to explain to them about colorimetry and simultaneous contrast, and how you can make the intense colors look brighter only in relation to the colors they're next to. And here I am giving my competitor my most advanced knowledge in printing and fine arts. But they had no idea WTF I was talking about, their print guys had no art background whatsoever. All they cared about was that our corrections satisfied the client, and then they started cranking out a big edition of large format "giclee" prints for the client.

So looking at Wyland's work online, I am pretty sure the images I worked on were by him. Oh if only i could have stopped it. But that's not what I got paid for. I got paid to make other people's work look good. The other guys got to print money on their Iris and con unsophisticated buyers into believing that cheap inkjet prints were was just as good as fine art lithography or serigraphy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm really not trying to be ghoulish, but the combination of the acting out by peeing and outbursts in public, his divorce, his parents divorce and childhook isolation, the over-the-top expressions of religious faith, the public big success and even more vicious public criticsm, maybe creating the feelings of fraud, of selling out, of talent wasted and a range of human feelings compressed into one narrow sliver of the emotional spectrum... all that whisper that this is going to turn out to be a suicide.

Which only makes it even more sad.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2012


....I'm really not sure what to do with this information, but: apparently for the extra-deluxe versions of his paintings, Kincaide would go so far as to mix his own blood and hair into the ink with which he signed the paintings.


Someone hold me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


tigrefacile: "Everyone understands that you can't actually paint light, yes?"

Nah. You just need to make sure to paint both the waves and particles.
posted by schmod at 8:42 AM on April 11, 2012


Yeah but the problem is, the smaller the brush you use, the less sure you are where to put the paint.
posted by unSane at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


A Kinkade gallery I actually enjoyed.
posted by benzenedream at 11:20 PM on April 11, 2012


It was us.

We killed Thomas Kinkade.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:29 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


....I'm really not sure what to do with this information, but: apparently for the extra-deluxe versions of his paintings, Kincaide would go so far as to mix his own blood and hair into the ink with which he signed the paintings.

I think you might have misunderstood that. Some artists sign their work with a DNA Pen to protect against forgeries. This isn't usually the artist's DNA, it's a commercially produced DNA taggant.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:25 PM on April 12, 2012


Actually, Charlie, according to this Washington Post article:

"His paintings often featured a church as well as a Bible reference and the Christian symbol of a fish with his signature; he also sometimes included traces of his own DNA from blood and hair mixed with the paint he used."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:05 AM on April 13, 2012


The writer is perhaps being a bit hyperbolic there. A DNA pen typically has the "taggant" prepared commercially from a blood or hair sample. This is a fairly standardized authentication protocol, he wouldn't cut off a hank of hair, prick his finger, and then brew up some ink. But you never know, Kinkade was such a weirdo.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:33 AM on April 13, 2012


Wife of 'Painter of Light' Thomas Kinkade seeks restraining order against his girlfriend
There's a new twist in the aftermath of the death of Thomas Kinkade, the artist called the "Painter of Light."

Attorneys representing his wife, Nanette, and estate have filed for a temporary restraining order against Kinkade's girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, to prevent her from disclosing information about him, Los Gatos Patch reported.

The publication said court documents from Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose showed that the attorneys said Pinto-Walsh had signed a confidentiality agreement on Feb. 25, 2011.

The documents also state that Kinkade died April 5, not April 6 as previously reported, Los Gatos Patch said.
The Patch said that when it interviewed Pinto-Walsh, 54, by phone on April 7, she said she had been with Kinkade when he died at his estate and had called 911. She told the Patch that she had been his girlfriend for 18 months and that he had been separated from his wife for a while.

Pinto-Walsh is still living in Kinkade's estate.

The order sought by the attorneys for Nanette Kinkade seeks to prevent Pinto-Walsh from making statements that criticize Kinkade or his wife and to prevent her from publishing anything concerning Kinkade, his wife or any of his companies.



posted by ericb at 9:43 AM on April 22, 2012


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