All you need to know about Thomas Kinkade [Updated]

[Edited April 7, 2012:  To fans of Thomas Kinkade who arrived at my blog after hearing of the painter’s death yesterday: please accept my sincere condolences.  This post was written in August of 2011.  Obviously I don’t think much of his work, but he was a child of God like every other human being.  May his soul rest in peace, and may we all dwell in the true light of Christ together one day.]

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William Turner, painter of light:

Rembrandt van Rijn, painter of light:

George Tooker, painter of light:

Caravaggio, painter of light:

Charles Burchfield, painter of light:

Jan Vermeer, painter of light:

Thomas Kinkade, painter of shite:

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55 comments

  1. AWESOME… did you know he urinated publicly on a statue of Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland. As Scott Simon said on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” , “there’s a special place in hell for the man who urinates on Winnie the Pooh.” Yeah there is and a whole circle for faux artists…

  2. I think this comparitive study is the best way to describe my distaste for Kinkade. When I lived in Rome, I loved the quiet little Church, not far off of the metro, Santa Maria del Popolo. As one of my favorite prayer spots, I’d sit for hours and meditate on Carvaggio’s Conversion of Paul and Crucifixion of Peter. They are both amazing, magnificent, and prayer-inspiring… And I came back to the states for my brother’s wedding, and my grandmother showed me her new pride and joy…a Reader’s Digest Kinkade, framed on the wall of her mobile home.
    Welcome home!

  3. Thank you! Thank You! Everytime I open up those paper or coupon inserts with the Kincade ads (yours for only 3 low payments of $19.95!) I want to ralph.

  4. My taste is not at all refined and I’m learning to embrace my dummy status, so I’ll be the uncultured idiot who offers a defense. I’m not really a fan of his, but I do understand the attraction. It’s escapist art. They are pretty and homey and look like places fairies might live – and people need that after a day of looking at garbage cans and rats on subway tracks and strip malls.

    I’m also cynical about what gets to be called “art.” As far as I’m concerned, if there’s room in the world for Duchamp, then there’s a place for Kinkade.

    • Yeah, I have to agree with Sara. I’m not really a fan of Kinkade but she is right about some having to look at something pretty (especially those who live in urban areas, far away from natural scenery).

      I am more concerned about art today that insults religion. People smearing images of Christ or other saints, all in the name of “art”. But we all know they just want to insult Christianity (or Christians themselves) because deep down they are spiritually lost.

  5. Wow, that’s pretty harsh! So, basically if your art becomes popular before you die, your work is shite? Kinkade made money off his art and sold too many and was duplicated too many times to qualify as an artist. Artists beware, do what you can to prevent millions from loving your work while you are still alive. The choice of the common man is, in the end, and by definition, common. Kinkade should have known better.

    • Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Katy Perry.
      “I kissed a girl/and I liked iii-it” (Since when is “it” a two-syllable word?)
      “Baby you’re a fiiiyerwork/go and show them how you…WORK” (I would never have guessed that a word rhymes with itself. Brava!)

  6. I’d be interested in a review. I’ve always had difficulty explaining why I didn’t like Kincade. My mom loves him and has three paintings of his. I dislike all but a rainy street scene the least. The best I’ve been able to come up with is that his paintings are not real.

  7. Actually, Sara might be onto something. In our local church we have a statue of a saint made out of car bumpers, a stained glass window of a stoned 70’s Jesus, and cement walls. It makes sense that people would revolt against this ugliness by embracing a saccharine simplistic beauty. I’ve never been a hater of Kincade, I reserve that for the artists of trash that pollute this town I live in. Perhaps it’s a first step to rejecting ugly?

      • St Thomas Aquinas – Charlottesville. You can catch a glimpse of it in the street view but the sun washes out most of it’s brilliance.

        (aside – it’s an awesome parish, it just has terrible art & architecture)

  8. Too funny!

    Really, though. Meh. Kinkade is kitschy, but I think pretty harmless. It’s like elevator music, or churros, or the other million things in our lives that take the place of “real, good stuff.” A poor substitute, but not many people really think it’s equal to the real thing.

    Imagine, for example, McDonalds’ chefs having their own HGTV show. Nope. McDonalds is kitschy food, Kinkade is kitschy artwork. The day he hangs in the Louvre, then you can worry.

  9. Jennifer, I think the real rubbish is that he calls himself ‘the painter of light’… and protects it through trademark! Even Wikipedia redirects ‘Painter of Light’ to Kinkade, and that IS pathetic.

    Simcha, did you omit Monet on purpose? I’m just curious.

  10. And because I like to hear myself talk, I’ll add:

    Duchamp and the like made Kinkade possible and necessary. Possible, because they challenged the definition of art and necessary because the stuff that came out of that challenge was just so freakin’ ugly.

  11. Brilliant! And to those who want a clear-cut explanation of why it’s bad art – no, it’s not because he’s “popular.” It’s because he thinks he can be a “painter of light” without being a painter of shadows. For starters.

    • Laura, thanks for this link. Had I never read this I would continue to reject Thomas Kincade’s paintings outright… all I’ve ever seen are the much lauded ‘light’ pictures. The juxtaposition of the first two paintings was quite dramatic. I can’t imagine why he stopped painting with such depth. I wonder what happened to him. I hope he is able to once again find his original motivation to paint… I’m sorry he strayed away in the first place.

  12. Amen, Simcha! My parents love Thomas Kinkade, and once took us to a gallery where they showed us how, if you turn the lights off, Kinkade’s paintings actually glow.

    This was right after my semester of art in Rome, and first, I was like, “I think the glow is coming from that little headlamp hanging over the frame” and then I was like, “I’m embarrassed to be an American right now.”

    And yeah, I second ARM. It’s not bad art because it’s popular. It’s bad art because it sucks. Anyone who’s studied real art, even for semester in college, can see that.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but I have had it with this “subjective standard of art” crap. There’s good art, like Caravaggio and Shakespeare, and then there’s bad art, like Kinkade and the entire collection of Oprah’s Book Club. When we loosen the standards, culture plummets. Seriously.

  13. Wow so much Kincade hate. Am I the only person here who actually likes his stuff? It’s not because I think his work is “so amazing” or that he’s anywhere on par with the greats – it’s that he paints my imagination. In the darkest of my times, his paintings are the scenes that are created in my mind, to ease my weary soul. To find a space to breathe. To remember that not all life is surrounded by buildings and pavement and man-made monstrosities. To believe that, somewhere out there, a place with a free flowing brook and a little abandoned church does exist for the tired traveler.

    And honestly, when all else fails, at least you can recognize the objects in his paintings, understand what story he is trying to tell.

  14. I just spewed coffee all over my computer screen and fell off my chair (I was comfortably tipped back)!!! Talk about a picture (or a few well juxtaposed pictures) being worth a thousand words.

    I have never been able to see the attraction to Kincade’s stuff (it makesd me feel anything but peaceful… more like queasy) – and to find out that he has trademarked ‘painter of light’ is revolting – as your display so obviously pointed out. SAD.

    I’m all for ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ (I had to tolerate the pastoral scene on velvet in my parents’ living room for too many years – and art is about our emotional response to it), but I think we also have an obligation to educate ourselves and our children in objective standards.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  15. What is the difference between Kinkade and the artists shown here, or even the difference between early Kinkade (from the First Things piece) and later Kinkade?

    It’s simple. Artists paint a reflection of the fallen world. In the most exquisite nature scenes, the most stunning still life works, the best portrayals of human beings etc. there is at least a tinge of that sadness that reflects the Fall; in some works, the Fall is so present that we can scarcely stand to view the work, while in others, the Fall haunts the otherwise joyous scene.

    Kinkade decided at some point in his artistic career to stop painting reality and start painting fantasy, and his fantasy is not mere fairy-cottages or street scenes unmarred by mud or darkness: his fantasy is of a world that never needed a Redeemer, because it never fell in the first place. Nowhere is that more present than in his “religious” artwork such as the piece titled “The Cross.” This vine-wrapped religious object standing alone (no reminder of the thieves here!) on a solitary hillside and flooded with pink light is not an object of torture on which a Man who was more than a Man died to save us from our sins; it’s not even a reminder of such a thing. It is, in fact, a cross without suffering and death, because in Kinkade’s unfallen world no such suffering or death was ever needed in the first place.

    And that’s one reason why though Kinkade’s work may exude prettiness and be a relief to those who must view the banal ugliness of the modern world on a daily basis, it is not really capable of being beautiful. The most beautiful reality of our world is that after man fell and damaged all of creation, God sent His Son to save us. All truly beautiful art will reflect that whether the reflection is intentional on the part of the artist or not, and no matter what the subject or medium is. I believe that it is simply not possible to create beauty without reflecting the Fall, and at least the hope (in the case of pre-Christian art) that this is not what was supposed to be, and that a remedy might be found.

  16. Any time I see anything about Kinkade, I think of you, Simcha! Earlier in the year when I was perusing a big homeschool catalog, I came across an art curriculum called “Drawing Basics with Thomas Kinkade” the paragraph describing the curriculum was about enough to make me lose my lunch!

  17. Love this post. Kinkade is like Currier and Ives. Some people are into that kind of stuff. But neither are studied in Art History courses.

  18. There’s a connection between Kinkade-hatred and Kinkade’s popularity. People are annoyed that he’s both bad and popular. If he were merely bad at painting (like me), then there would be nothing to be frustrated by.

    Note that this is different from hating him for being popular. It’s completely different, as a matter of fact.

  19. Caravaggio: Painter of Terrifying Light.

    One of the most excruciatingly embarrassing moments of my life came while visiting my sister’s in-laws who had just purchased six Thomas Kinkade paintings done by “one of only five artists personally authorized by Kinkade to replicate his masterpieces.” Six of them. Each one in a correspondingly colored room. And they were so anxious to show me because I’d been to Rome and “knew something about art.” I knew nothing about art except that I was sure $400-$600 each was probably a little too high. I miraculously found a way to say “it matches so well with this room” a little differently six times.

  20. First, I’d like to say that I can see the reason for the popularity as well. They are really pretty. Unicorns and fairies and nothing dark, scary or real there. You can really dream yourself away in those fairytale cottages and forget all the troubles of real life.
    They aren’t even badly made. If someone was selling such stuff at Etsy, it wouldn’t be featured in Regretsy, so it’s not “bad” bad, or really crappy crap.

    But, it is bad because it’s flat.
    It’s mechanic. It’s what I call “paint by numbers” art – the artist has a concept, technique, checklist, and he paints by it. I’ll put a dot of yellow there, and a rose there and… You could build a robot to paint these.
    Lifeless. There’s very little people in these pictures. Someone said it’s like after neutron bomb. All the lifeforms have been eradicated, there’s only buildings and electricity left…
    Messy.
    Fake. I get the feeling that this is a fairy illusion to lure me into hell… Sure, it’s pretty… but it’s just pretty.
    Stepford wives pretty.
    It doesn’t awaken any emotions in me. It doesn’t say me anything. It doesn’t make me sigh of awe.
    It doesn’t make me want to see it in real life. I so want to see Turner in real life…
    And there’s so much of it. If you have seen one, you have seen all.

    In Sweden there’s a concept “hötorgkonst” – the art sold at markets and fairs, copies of real masterpieces, popular subjects, by people who has the basic skills but no real talent or passion or wish to actually EXPRESS something with their art. They – just as Kinkade – paint to get money, so they paint what sells.

    Then there’s all the hype!
    Someone said he’s a MASTER PAINTER, “davinci of our time”, that there are no others who could paint like he does… Geesh! I’m sure I could make a “kinkade” in a week, if I had paint, canvas and if I wanted to waste my time.
    He also seems to be so full of himself it’s disgusting. “Painter of light”, my a…!
    Makes me want to find faults just to spite these idiots.

  21. Erin, I respectfully beg to differ.
    God created the world beautiful, and it is still as beautiful as it was the day it was created.
    There are landscape painters, wildlife painters, even flower painters, who manage to create masterpieces with all desirable emotion, beauty and depth required for it to be called art, and good art, not crap, without any reference to “the fall”.
    You might think that that Vermeer is not beautiful, but I do, and I don’t see any references to “the fall” in it. You might see.
    I don’t think Turner is referring to “the fall” in any way in his “rain, steam and speed” – it’s mostly just a jumble of color… and light… oh, the light! It sure is beautiful.
    But – what do I know what you think is beautiful and what not. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder 🙂

  22. I would like to know just what it is that makes anyone an expert on art. Why is it that so many people think that only they can decide what good art is and what is not. I get so tired of hearing art snobs throw around names of artist and types of art that are the only real true forms of art. Art is for anyone who views it. If a person truly enjoys or is moved by a painting, or sculpture, or their first grade chilld’s drawing… then it is art. I will decide if what I am looking at is good art or not. For anyone who finds beauty in Thomas Kinkade’s work, then they have decided for themselve’s that it is good art. If you don’t like it, then don’t look at it and stop trying to impress everyone with your self acclaimed expertise on what is and isn’t art

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