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Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade, A View From The Brush-front By David Billet.

Artist ,Thomas KinkadeThere is no living artist, or for that matter any artist from the recent past, that I can think of, that can both generate such universal derision amongst other artists, whilst managing to engender such a passionate following amongst a certain section of the American buying public, non more than Thomas Kinkade.

Thomas Kinkade is despised and disparaged with a passion by every contemporary artist I have ever met, and I have met a lot of them.

Most working artists dismiss Thomas Kinkade and his success as a huge joke or con trick being perpetrated by a clever marketing and franchising department.

Yet others see his work as the inevitable product of folksy populist sentimentalism, meeting a capitalistic “eye on the prize” painter who specifically sets out create images to appeal to the blue collar, duck and cover, generation of Americans, weaned on Disney movies, rose colored reminiscences of the past and maybe a little too much disposable income.

Others see his work as part of an ultimately destructive, cynical retrograde appeal to a populist sentiment  that includes patriotism, born again Christianity, mythology and phony symbolism, dragging down the over-all seriousness and professionalism of working artists.

Thomas Kinkade, I have an opinion.

I, on the other hand, have my own opinions of Mr. Thomas Kinkade’s work, Thomas Kinkade ,spent some time working for a movie studio, painting backgrounds for the 1983 cartoon “Fire and Ice” and many commentators have said that this is where he refined his so called “painter of Light” styling but this is not so.  Tom Kinkade in a short biography on his website tells us that it was his move to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena that engendered a fierce competition with his fellow students, pushed him to develop his techniques for creating effects of mood and light.

In fact, you don’t have to look too far to find the genesis of Thomas Kinkade’s style, take a look at the work of the French artist Edouard-Leon Cortes who died in1969 or the earlier work of the English Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw and you will see where this “painter of light” style came from.

Concorde and Rue Royale, 1900

Thomas Kinkade is obviously an accomplished technical painter, I think what unnerves other artists is not the obvious kitsch commercial quality of his work, what really messes with their minds is that there is actually a market for his paintings at all in today’s modern market.

It’s not a disappointment with Thomas Kinkade, to them he is irrelevant, a throwback to an earlier era, no it’s a disappointment with the lowbrow plebian quality of the market, “why do they buy this c***p” Is the most often sounded distillation of artists indignation.

Let me make it clear because artists won’t tell you this themselves directly, the thinking goes like this, people with enough money to pay the price for a Thomas Kinkade print, BTW he only sells the prints these days, but people with the money to buy one of his prints should have the taste and education to buy a real oil painting, preferably one of their oil paintings.

I find it all very amusing, on one level I tend to agree with my compatriots’ I can’t stand some of Kinkades Disney themed paintings, or for that matter his over sentimental religious or patriotic renditions, however I have seen some of his earlier work like “Dawson 1984” and I have to admit that Mr. Kinkade is a very fine artist, in the classical style, good draftsmanship, competent brio brushwork and yes an interesting, if not somewhat exaggerated treatment of light.

Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade, Good “Taste” ?

As regarding the “taste” or art education of the buying public, well this is nothing new, art and the what is good art has long been considered the preserve of the intellectual classes and then by proxy the wealthy collectors who purchase the art approved by the intellectuals, but look where that has led us, Elephant dung on canvas anyone?

I can affirm that a great deal of snobbery is an integral part of the art market and most artists absorb this snobbery as they progress their careers, it is this absorption that maturates and in my opinion liquefies into the bitters expressed in the opinions above. Thomas Kinkade does not try to pander to this market, he does not target this market, Thomas Kinkade and the marketing organization that surrounds him know their potential clients and they are not your “typical” Art collectors or art intellectuals.

Thomas Kinkade’s market is everyday blue collar hard working Americans who are not interested in the art establishment, they are not interested in what has gone before or what the art movers and shakers say or think is the next big thing, style or movement, they are interested in pictures that make them feel at home and comfortable.

Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade's market, were are The Young people?

That’s his market ,it’s a legitimate market and Kinkade has been so successful at opening up and exploiting this market that he has spawned a whole legion of imitators, if success can be measured by the number of imitators that they produce them Thomas Kinkade is a very successful artist indeed .

Artists and art intellectuals’ dislike Thomas Kinkade because his work is not complicated, it’s simple straightforward and homely, it speaks to an American tradition, whereas their work is mainly complex and esoteric, qualities that resonate with the higher intellectual purposes of art as the great commentator of its time.

Thomas Kinkade will sell a lot of his work and make a considerable fortune in his time but art history will not look favorably on him because art history will be laid down by those very intellectuals’ who despise him right now.

Thomas Kinkade will forever carry the lepers bell of historical epithets as “The Peoples Artist” and all those ardent amateur collectors that have been sold their acquisitions as “investments” by his marketing department, will ,I am afraid, have to wait for the Kinkade revival that will take place, maybe a Hundred Years after the demise of Mr. Thomas Kinkade.