The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

26 January 2003

The Painter of Light

Alexandra, poking her head Out of Lascaux, poses a perfectly reasonable question:


[W]hy do "we", the artsy crowd, despise Thomas Kinkade so much? He has painted some beautiful works, mixed in with the syruppy sweet English country garden/gazebo things. I mean, if he had been doing the same stuff in the 1880's, he would have been as revered as Renoir (who was rather a hack himself, I must add). He also owes a lot to Caspar David Friedrich in his palette. So do we scorn him because he mass produces this stuff, thereby becoming a millionaire? Or is it because it's so pretty?

That's some of it, I think; if he did one-hundredth the volume and charged one thousand times as much, he'd probably get more positive reviews from the cognoscenti, who believe with all their sniffy little hearts that anything owned by someone who has a big-screen TV to watch the Green Bay Packers can't possibly have any merit whatsoever.

I snagged a 2002 Kinkade calendar once upon a time, and reported on it as follows:


Kinkade has a mind's eye way better than 20/20; the scenes, mostly pastoral with a couple of nods to city life, are sentimental and idealized, yes, but he gets the details right, and unless you're predisposed to sneer at everything sentimental and idealized, a stance I am not prepared to sustain for extended periods, you might find yourself actually responding emotionally to the images he creates. This may not be the world we know, but it's a world we wish we did know.

Posted at 12:02 PM to Almost Yogurt

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I can't throw rocks. I generally want my photos to show not the world as it exists but as I wish it existed. I understand what you're saying about Mr. Kincaid's work. Some of it seems smarmy, but with a very keen painter's eye for how light works, and there is beauty in that, if not so much in a cliched gazebo.

Posted by: fredf at 8:10 PM on 26 January 2003

"Sentimental and idealized," yes, that is exactly what it is. Most of it. But every now and then he paints something that goes a bit beyond that, as if to show "See, I really can paint the good stuff. Now, back to making money." What a great way to do what you love and become rich at it.

Posted by: Alexandra at 8:41 AM on 27 January 2003