April 7, 2012

"A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels," wrote Joan Didion...

... about the now-dead Thomas Kinkade.
"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."
You've got to give the guy credit for the sheer performance of painting in a manner that is simultaneously so loveable — by those who love it — and so hateable — by those who hate it. I've so often heard the phrase: You either love it or you hate it. I don't like clichés, but in Kinkade's case, the phrase is so apt. And Kinkade was cliché. So I just want to say (in tribute to the cliché that was Kinkade): You either love it or you hate it. What else can be said? Oh, how about a poll:

Kinkade?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

And one more thing. I thought there was a death triad forming. Yesterday, I blogged about Jim Marshall — who designed the iconic rock-and-roll amplifiers. And just a couple days ago, we lost Ferdinand A. Porsche, who designed the great sports car, the Porsche 911. Kinkade fits that triad. These were all individuals who came up with a design that gave real pleasure to a lot of people. Others sneered, perhaps, for one reason or another, but enough of that. Goodbye to 3 popular designers.

76 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Intelligent Design. There is nothing like it.

crosspatch said...

The lights in the window is the ENTIRE point of his paintings. He considered himself a painter of light. The light is the whole "thing".

SF Chronicle article

The light is the Holy Spirit. He was a very devout Christian.

traditionalguy said...

The first time thatI saw a Kinkade, it attacted me. But as they flooded the place there value seemed to become more like Elvis paintings.

RIP, Mr Kinkade. Childhood memories of Love Light coming from the family homeplace/refuge/bastion will never go out of style.

Alex said...

No doubt leftists will mock him for being a Christian painter.

Peter said...

It's amusing how his family says he died of "natural causes." When a person dies at that age it's most assuredly unnatural. I wonder what the real cause was.

Alex said...

Define "natural" causes.

Synova said...

I didn't like the typical Kincade painting, but I didn't hate them.

I tend to defend those who loved his paintings. If you think something is pretty and it makes you happy, that is a *good* thing.

Synova said...

"Natural causes" in your 50's is a heart attack or cancer or an aneurysm. Sickness and disease are "natural."

Rick Lee said...

I've walked through a few of the Kinkade mall galleries around the country (I'm an artist as well as a photographer, I'll look at paintings whenever I can) and I found that there were some of his work that I really liked and some of it I didn't. I finally figured out that I hated the "fantasy" art which was obviously just invented out of his mind. But at some of the galleries you could see some paintings of actual real places such as Carmel, California street scenes or other real locations. These showed what talent he really had. But I suppose that wasn't what sold, so he just cranked out the silly fantasy cottages.

Revenant said...

I would put myself in the "like" camp. The paintings are well-done and attractive, but nothing to go nuts over.

William said...

I read the obit. He was a heavy drinker. According to the obit, he heckled Siegfried & Roy, copped a cheap feel on a female admirer who asked for his autograph, and pissed on the Winnie the Pooh figure at Disneyland. The guy wasn't all bad.....Apparently he was very successful, but I lived my whole life and never heard of him. I vaguely sense that I might have seen his pictures somewhere, but they're Muzak for the eyes. Almost pleasant and forgettable.

Rob said...

May God forgive me for mentioning it, but either Kinkade was a cliché or he was clichéd. Dropping the -ed (or the indefinite article) puts you in the company of the uneducate, which would be a pity for such a distinguish professor.

rcocean said...

I'm with Rick Lee, liked his landscapes - hated the fantasy. Especially the cottages with light streaming out.

chickenlittle said...

I never heard of the guy until today either, but I understand that the lefty art types need to Tebow him. It's their gut reaction.

Michael K said...

"Ferdinand A. Porsche, who designed the great sports car, the Porsche 911."

He also was a great tank designer for the German Army. He designed the "Porche turret" as well as the King Tiger and the Panther tank. There were only 50 King Tigers built but they created mayhem in the Ardennes battle.

Of course, the best tank in the world was designed by an American and adopted by the Soviet army after the American army dismissed it. All tanks are now based on his designed for the drive train.

madAsHell said...

I could never afford a Marshall amp. I have a Peavey made in Mississippi. It has great reverb....or is it a twang?

edutcher said...

My tastes run a bit more toward Frederic Remington and Albert Bierstadt, but I had a buddy at work who liked his stuff.

He made people's world a little better.

Nothing wrong with that.

PS Porsche links are bad.

Are we talking the guy who made the Volkswagen or an offspring?

write_effort said...

Kinkade tapped into the desire of all classes to own original art. That's what I found intriguing about his enterprise. (Oh, and a friend of mine went to high school with him in Placerville. Her opinion of him: "art is subjective.")

Palladian said...

The low expectations and bad taste of the average human are no excuses for creating such meretricious trash.

The only positive things that can be said about Kinkade are:

1. He employed a lot of people

2. He made a hateful artist like Renoir seem important by comparison.

3. He died young.

Phil 3:14 said...

"Deaths in threes" is a superstition

but a good one

I guess

rcommal said...

Sneering is the on-the-cheap version of judgment, and that is true without regard to its target. It is not admirable. Full stop.

Indigo Red said...

Kincaid's work looks like it was created with cake frosting rather than paint. Too diabetic coma inducing for me.

Kurt said...

As an architect and amateur artist, I will say that I didn't like Kinkade's style. But that matters not a wit.

As a fan of successful business, I will say that I HUGELY like Kinkade's style. The man figured out how to make something once, then sell it thousands of times over. Good for him, and good for all those that are now enjoying his work in their homes. Rest in Peace, Thomas Kinkaid.

lewsar said...

@michaelk: given that butzi porsche was born in 1935, i sort of doubt he had anything to do with world war 2 era tanks.

@edutcher: butzi (ferdinand a.) porsche was the grandson of the volkswagen designer.

also note that we are talking about two different kinds of design. the original ferdinand porsche and his son ferry porsche were engineers, and designed in the sense of created the engine, suspension, and other mechanical components.

butzi porsche, son of ferry, was a designer of shapes and created the iconic 911 via a clay model. his father and grandfather then designed the car that fit the shape.

Lem said...

The correct answer is..

Hey, what about me? I'm actually in the middle, and I'm not lying.

I waited to the last possible moment to make up my mind.

Lem said...

I saw one hanging somewhere.. I remember where.. But I could tell right away that it was a fake ;)

Henry said...

Hate is a strong word. There's a point where Kincade turned into shag carpet: loathsome and silly at the same time. Too silly to hate.

There was something hateful about his business enterprise, and that was his degradation of the idea of originality. The concept of selling a copy with a swipe of ad hoc glaze as an original was fraudulent. It is if Steve Perry sold karaoke bar recordings as new singles.

All the same, he never pretended to be anything he wasn't and now he's dead, so RIP Mr. Kincade.

Lem said...

In Google's Images gallery I'm having a hard time picking a favorite..

They are that good.

Henry said...

Leroy Neiman is still alive, so the painter of "playboys, bunnies, and provocateurs" gets the last laugh.

Christy said...

I was embarrassed for friends of mine with a serious Kincade collection. Are all Kincade aficionados people who, unsolicited, make a big deal of showing visitors their treasures? I hate being forced to be polite!

Seven Machos said...

I think this was probably the best thing for Kincade's career at this point. He had reached a plateau, and was going downward. This will boost sales.

Lem said...

Oh noo..

Loved it is surging.

The art establishment is in a panic.

Lem said...

Kinkade's death painted as windfall to Santorum's coffers.

Will Cate said...

While most of his stuff looked kind-of cheezy to my eyes, what I know about art wouldn't fill a thimble. I can hardly draw a straight line, and thus I give props the man, likewise to anyone who can do something I can't and be successful at it.

Pogo said...

Kincade once painted quite well, before he became schlocky.

"Consider two works of on similar themes. Both are images of the Water Tower in Chicago."

Peter said...

According to the obit, he heckled Siegfried & Roy, copped a cheap feel on a female admirer who asked for his autograph, and pissed on the Winnie the Pooh figure at Disneyland.

The last of those made me crack up!

Seven Machos said...

Pogo -- I'm glad you posted that; I had seen the article long ago but forgotten it. I don't get why anyone would like either one of those paintings, or anything Kincaid has done. It seems to me not only that it's already been done, better, many times before for hundreds of years, but also that any half-decent artist could do what Kincaid did.

I once talked my way into a summer course in advanced abstract painting at my local college, because I needed an art class to graduate from my actual college. The lesson I learned in that class was that, no, anyone cannot do what we call modern art. I certainly could not. But that doesn't change the fact that much modern art is not very interesting at all. Kincaid did things at the same uninteresting level; he merely did it in a very novel way by being strikingly unmodern.

But trite is trite.

Bender said...

I didn't know that Kinkade was that young. I always assumed that he was some old guy, probably long dead.

But yes, people can die young of natural causes.

I can remember knocking on the bedroom door of a 34-year-old roommate because he had a phone call. Then after telling the caller that no one was answering, and the caller asking me to check because he hadn't been to work in a couple of days, and both of us joking, "maybe he's dead in there, ha, ha" . . . well, you can see where this is going.

Long story short -- when you don't tell your roommates that you are insulin-dependent diabetic and you don't take it, or end up going into insulin shock or possibly a related heart attack, when your roommate does find you a couple days later because you have a phone call, you are going to literally be room temperature and your flesh hard as a rock from being in full rigor.

Palladian said...

But that doesn't change the fact that much modern art is not very interesting at all.

It's not just modern (or contemporary) art that is largely uninteresting and bad; that's been true for all of western art history. The difference is that you hardly ever see the bad art of the past. Time mercilessly prunes out the weeds of the garden of art history, and what does survive of the mediocrity is seldom shown, especially not in major public art museums.

The Met here in New York had an interesting exhibition a few years ago, about the age of Rembrandt. The premise of the exhibition was novel: they basically hung up every painting they owned that was made during or directly after Rembrandt's life. Many of these paintings hadn't seen the light of a gallery in more than a hundred years, and probably won't again for another hundred or so.

The amazing thing is, walking through gallery after gallery of these pictures, you could clearly see why Rembrandt and his best contemporaries are considered great artists, that good and bad, in that context, actually aren't subjective states.

I have read comparisons between Kinkade and Albert Bierstadt, but that's ridiculous. Bierstadt, however you may feel about his attitude toward landscape, or about the light philosophical underpinnings of his work, was a masterful technician of a magnitude that Kinkade couldn't have even begun to approach.

For the price people pay for Kinkade's dross, they could buy one (or more) decent 19th or 20th century landscape at a local auction, or a small painting from an exceptional younger talent. But it's easier to pick something up at the mall.

Palladian said...

Bender, that's a horrible story. Sorry you had to experience that.

EDH said...

crosspatch said...
The lights in the window is the ENTIRE point of his paintings. He considered himself a painter of light. The light is the whole "thing".

Peter said...
It's amusing how his family says he died of "natural causes." When a person dies at that age it's most assuredly unnatural. I wonder what the real cause was.

Kinkade died with the warm glow of his inspiration.

Clearly, the incandescent Light Bulb ban did him in.

Carnifex said...

The first time I saw a Kinkaide light painting I was enthralled. By the time I saw the plate series I was horrified.

I love cake and ice cream but I wouldn't want to eat it every day of the week. I like the corners and hard edges of our world. It keeps us on our toes.

I'm sorry Mr. Kinkaide is dead. I think I might be more sorry that he didn't expand on his talent more. Regardless, he will be missed by many, which is more than could be said about most of us.

Lem said...

Looks as if Kinkade chose to be loved\hated rather than ignored..

It made sense to Rush.. Derv.. and Supremely to Kennedy.

That's My Prediction and I'm sticking to it.. win loose or draw.. sketch.. etch.. itch.. I cant scratch.

Bender said...

He had a ten-year-old daughter, too (who lived with her mom, obviously, and not with us). Very sad.

Lem said...

Clearly, the incandescent Light Bulb ban did him in.

And here I was thinking I was alone slavingly churning out snark after snark in total obscurity.

Joan said...

Count me in the middle ground -- I would never own a Kinkade, and if someone gave me one, I'd give it away as discreetly and as soon as possible. But I understand that taste is a personal thing... and some people don't have any.

Ahem. One thing I will say for Kincade is that he at least got the perspective right. A couple of months ago I was waiting with several other acquaintances in an area that had several Kinkade knock-offs along the walls. I kept staring at the one closest to the little group I was with, trying to figure out what exactly was wrong with it -- it turned out to provide a lively distraction when we all started noticing how big the flowers in the foreground must really be, and/or how tiny the cottage door actually was as compared to the lamp post -- that kind of thing. Kinkade, as far as I could see, at least got that stuff right.

It could always be worse, right?
RIP, Mr. Kinkade. I salute your success if not the works you mass produced.

Palladian said...

It could always be worse, right?

Yes! One could be Mark Kostabi, for instance.

Lem said...

Hi Palladian..

I used to work with this artist back in the 90's before he left consulting engineering to go to art school, pursue his first passion.. name is Bob O'Connor.

I lost touch with him since then but I've seen some of work on line.. maybe you heard of him?

Lem said...

Bob is an environmental engineer.. You can see how that early phase of his life influenced him here.

Ralph L said...

Where are the Munchkins?

I like the cityscapes; the cottages--yuck.

caplight45 said...

Just to prove life is never more than ten minutes away from a Seinfeld episode I remember the one where George bought one of Elaine's old boy friend's paintings because he thought he was on his death bed. Kramer told him paintings go up in value when the artist dies. George is bummed because the guy gets better and he is stuck with $1900 of art.

rhhardin said...

You can't have too many brightly lit cottages.

Joseph Schmoe said...

I don't like it myself, but it's not offensive to me. My mother likes stuff like that. Where I grew up, there was a guy who did Kincade-lite fantasy paintings and sold them in the local diner. His stuff was more Bob Ross, if anyone remembers that guy from his Joy of Painting show on PBS (which I bet is still enjoyable to watch for the unintentional comedy). I still have a rock paperweight from that guy with a fantasy pond/forest/mountain on it. So whenever I see Kincade stuff it takes me back to my childhood in a good way.

The art world is finicky. Commercial success based on reproduction of material gets you relegated to illustrator status, or worse yet, a graphic designer. Kincade, to me, falls more into the illustrator category. Which isn't a knock; one of my favorite artists is N.C. Wyeth. We had a handful of Scribner classic books (Treasure Island, etc.) in the house when I was growing up, and I was just enthralled by the illustrations, which happened to be Wyeth's. My favorite was this one.

Wyeth struggled to develop masterworks that would catapult him from illustrator to fine artist, but he never quite made the leap. His son Andrew did. Now that I think of it, there's a great biography on NC Wyeth by David Michaelis. Worth checking out if you're interested in the subject matter at all.

Rusty said...

I thought his work was american kitsch for the masses. Something you won at a carnival. But as my mother, who was an artist, used to say,"All art is good art...............until it's bad art."
Whatever that means.

Joseph Schmoe said...

Kincade was selling more than just kitsch. He tapped into an ethos that highly values a home as the ultimate refuge from the rigors of life. He was selling the idea of coming home to an idealized, welcoming refuge. The imaginary aspect just made it all the more escapist.

We can objectively knock his work based on its appearance, but you underestimate what he was selling at your peril. All sorts of 'real' artists, chronicling the world around them in a variety of styles and media, won't approach the psychological power that his work exerted over a big chunk of our culture.

I like the tidbits I've learned here about Kincade's personal life. On the one hand, a Christian painter who makes very safe artwork. On the other hand, he gets drunk a lot and pissed on Mickey Mouse. If all true, that's good stuff, right there.

Joseph Schmoe said...

This probably isn't fair to Kincade, but I have to link to just one clip of the guy who really popularized made-up landscape painting.

ricpic said...

There is never a minor key color in a Kinkade. Candy for the appetizer and main course as well as dessert. Unnerving if you want even a smidgeon of iron in your art. But most folks don't They want pure undiluted sentimentality. Which is the flip side of cruelty. One thing you can take to the bank: the couple with a Kinkade on their living room wall?..don't expect anything but the harshest calculation if you're foolish enough to enter into a business transaction with them

lemondog said...

Don't like it but as mentioned, hate is too strong.

Someone also mentioned Schlock which seems to sum it up.

Checked ebay to see some of the ask and was surprised by some high prices ith bids showing.

O well...boring world with no yin/yang.......

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I didn't like his work. The colors are just jarring and garish.

That doesn't mean that he wasn't "good" or that other people shouldn't like him. Just not my taste.

Peter said...

On the other hand, he gets drunk a lot and pissed on Mickey Mouse

Not quite. He actually Drained the Weasel on Winne the Pooh.

Joe said...

I don't like Kincade's but compare his paintings with the industrial knockoffs he sold and the difference is stark.

For landscapes, give me Thomas Cole.

Methadras said...

I'm getting tired of the 'natural causes' cliche. As if having an aneurysm or a heart attach is now a 'natural cause' of death. I suppose it could be, but it seems more neutral to say as opposed to some other cause that is somehow stigmatizing?

Jane said...

Kinkade was a businessman. He found a way to make art that people liked, that they enjoyed having in their homes, and he made money off it. Good for him! Much better than being a "starving artist" no matter how disdainful those types are of the hoi polloi.

Jane said...

Kinkade was a businessman. He found a way to make art that people liked, that they enjoyed having in their homes, and he made money off it. Good for him! Much better than being a "starving artist" no matter how disdainful those types are of the hoi polloi.

Robert Cook said...

"Looks as if Kinkade chose to be loved\hated rather than ignored...."

No, I'd say the choice he made was to make pictures that would sell in great numbers rather than those that would not.

I was not a fan, to say the least, (and I discovered to my surprise on one of my visits to my dentist that the painting on their office waiting room wall is a Kinkade), but I won't gainsay those who enjoy his works.

sydney said...

Saying a youngish person died of natural causes is meant to indicate it wasn't suicide.

MarkD said...

No "Who?"

Anthony said...

I haven't taken the art world seriously since "art people" gasped in awe and wonder as paint was slapped on an empty canvas.

Well, frankly, I haven't taken the art world seriously since approximately 323 BC. . . .

sydney said...

Interestingly, the article at the link says his galleries went bankrupt even while his mass produced art made millions. The people with taste that run to his type of paintings aren't exactly the kind who frequent art galleries.

Palladian said...

I haven't taken the art world seriously since "art people" gasped in awe and wonder as paint was slapped on an empty canvas.

All paintings begin with paint being "slapped on an empty canvas", darling.

Blue@9 said...

Kinkade tapped into the desire of all classes to own original art.

This. Kinkade isn't hated because his work is cheesy, but because his work is popular. It's the same with country music and Dan Brown books--the cultural elite hate it because nothing can be worthy if the unwashed masses of flyover country like it. If Kinkade's paintings had been made by an obscure and reclusive Japanese fantasy artist, they would be fawned over and celebrated.

Palladian said...

This. Kinkade isn't hated because his work is cheesy, but because his work is popular.

No, it's because his work is meretricious trash.

It's the same with country music...

It depends on the country music. Much contemporary country music, like much other contemporary popular music is complete and utter garbage, devoid of beauty, devoid of original sentiments, devoid of structure; a product produced with no other intentions or virtues than to make money for someone by preying upon low standards.

...and Dan Brown books

Dan Brown books?! Have you ever read a Dan Brown book? Apart from spreading ludicrously false pseudo-historical information about Leonardo (here's a hint: "Da Vinci" is not Leonardo's surname. The title "The Da Vinci Code" is nonsensical and indicates the ignorance of the author to even basic research, all without opening the book), and not to mention Brown's heretical junior college-level intimations about the Roman Catholic church, the writing is horrendous! It makes Stephen King seem like an heir to Nabokov.


--the cultural elite hate it because nothing can be worthy if the unwashed masses of flyover country like it.

Nothing is so tiresome than the whining of pedestrians with a severe inferiority complex. "Oh! The Cultural Elite! They hate everything that flyover country loves!"

My dear, just because the hated "Cultural Elite" dislike something, doesn't make it automatically good or meritorious. The truth is that most people (worldwide) possess an undeveloped aesthetic sense and are drawn to the lowest forms of cultural expression. That's just the way it is. Great art (and music and architecture and writing...) has never appealed to a majority of people, nor has it intended to appeal to a majority of people nor should it. Americans have this weird idea that, because representative Republican government is the superior governmental structure for guaranteeing freedom, democracy and popularity is therefore the ideal to be achieved in all human endeavors. Balderdash.

If Kinkade's paintings had been made by an obscure and reclusive Japanese fantasy artist, they would be fawned over and celebrated.

Nonsense. Trash is trash.

And most Japanese fantasy art is extraordinarily popular with "flyover" country kids and is, like Kinkade, meretricious trash full of cheap, romantic sentiments, an unoriginal graphic sensibility, repetition of multiply-exhausted tropes, and an overwhelmingly saccharine ugliness of spirit.

I don't mind if people with pedestrian tastes enjoy schlock. Just don't pretend that your preference for bland, boring populist entertainments is somehow virtuous or extraordinary. That's the sort of relativist nonsense I'd expect from so-called progressives.

Hiram J Goldstein II said...

Thoma Kinkade made paintings grandmas everywhere loved. And he made a lot of money doing it. I hate his paintings, but I wish I'd had the idea.

Rusty said...

Peter said...
On the other hand, he gets drunk a lot and pissed on Mickey Mouse

Not quite. He actually Drained the Weasel on Winne the Pooh.


Mickey Mouse. Winnie the Pooh. Lets be honest. Haven't we all wanted to piss on a Disney character at one time or another?

Peter said...

Kincade gave the masses what they wanted- pretty pictures.

And, the are pretty. On his own terms, he was successful. And surely the zillions who bought Kincade stuff appreciated it.

So, perhaps it's not exactly fine art, and the art establishment just despises his financial success.

BUT, that establishment stopped asking "Bur, is it art?" half a century ago. And thereby gave up its right to complain that many people just like "pretty stuff." What are they supposed to like, artists-poop-in-a-can?

Palladian said...

So, perhaps it's not exactly fine art, and the art establishment just despises his financial success.

It's the same as when Barack Obama was elected; we don't like to see incompetence rewarded by those who lack discernment.