William Thomas Kinkade III was an American realism, pastoral, and idyllic painter who lived from January 19, 1958, to April 6, 2012. Throughout his life, he is most recognized for the Thomas Kinkade Company’s success in mass marketing his paintings as printed copies and other licensed items. One out of every twenty American families, according to Kinkade’s firm, has a replica of one of his paintings.
Kinkade coined the name “Painter of Light,” which he trademarked but had previously been attributed to English painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). Kinkade’s attitude and business techniques were chastised, and his work was dubbed “kitsch” by art reviewers. Kinkade died of “acute intoxication” caused by alcohol and the medicine diazepam at the age of 54.
William Kinkade was born on January 19, 1958, in Sacramento County, California. He graduated from Placerville’s El Dorado High School in 1976 and went on to the University of California, Berkeley, and Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design. Placerville is where he was born and reared.
Before he went to college, Kinkade was mentored by people like Charles Bell and Glenn Wessels. Kinkade’s choice to attend UC Berkeley was strongly supported by Wessels. The semi-autobiographical film Christmas Cottage, which was released in 2008, was based on Kinkade and Wessels’ friendship. Kinkade attended Berkeley for two years before moving to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Why Is It so Easy to Hate Thomas Kinkade, the “painter of Light”? Science Explains
You have to feel sorry for Thomas Kinkade: Throughout his career, the self-proclaimed Painter of Light was accused of being a scumbag whose works belonged in a Walmart bin instead of a museum. Critics have condemned his appealing, bucolic artworks as sweet, unpleasantly false, and something “normal” people should avoid. When he died of an alcohol-and-Valium overdose last year, many people believed his work was the “epitome of terrible art,” according to the Washington Post.
Now that Kinkade is on the cold, freezing ground, people are still berating him. The most recent slap comes from a worldwide group of scholars who have been analyzing human reactions to Kinkade’s paintings since at least 2011. The long-suffering academicians published a study in the British Journal of Aesthetics this spring that is currently gaining a lot of attention, asking whether people will appreciate Kinkade’s paintings more if they view them repeatedly.
Dissension and Criticism
Despite his financial success, art reviewers have harshly criticized Kinkade’s work. Kinkade’s death in April 2012 was described as the demise of a “kitsch master” by Susan Orlean, author of The Kitsch Master. In the same month, journalist Laura Miller derided Kinkade’s work as “a series of gaudy cottage paintings.”
Kinkade faced criticism from critics who said he over-commercialized his art by selling prints on QVC, for example. “To his detractors, he represents the triumph of sub-mediocrity and the commercialization and homogenization of painting,” wrote Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club in 2009. “Perhaps no other painter has been as shameless or as successful in transforming himself into a corporation as Kinkade,” he wrote in 2009.
Most people refer to him among them as a “mall artist” or “chocolate box artist,” rather than an excellent painter. Later on, Rabin described Kinkade’s art as “a maudlin, sickeningly sentimental depiction of a world where everything is as delightful as a delicious cup of hot chocolate on a chilly December day.”
“I Am without A Doubt the Most Controversial Artist on The Globe,” Kinkade Famously Said.
Thomas Kinkade, a Painter Who Was Reviled by Art Critics but Adored by The American Public
Imagine a world where dazzling cottages are tucked in lush flower beds or on rocky outcroppings near the sea, far away from the daily barrage of bad news. This is a place free of tsunamis and earthquakes, as well as the political rhetoric that separates nations and families.
If that sounds lovely to you, it was to artist Thomas Kinkade in the 1980s when he began painting his now-famous sugary-sweet landscapes. “[My paintings] draw you into this cosmos that gives an alternative to your nightly news broadcast,” he told the New York Times in 2001. “People are reminded that not everything in the world is ugly.”
Millions of Americans have been captivated by Kinkade’s light-drenched, paradisiacal scenes, which suggest a vacation from harsh reality. According to Kinkade’s firm, a Kinkade painting, poster, or tchotchke may be found in one out of every twenty homes in the United States. If the estimates are true, he will be America’s most collected artist, much to the anger of countless fine art critics who denigrate his work as cutesy, schlocky, or pure kitsch.
“Million-copy books and million-copy CDs have been produced.” In 2001, Kinkade told 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer, “There hasn’t been million-seller art until now.” Kinkade made a lot of money as well. Previously, the Thomas Kinkade Corporation (now Thomas Kinkade Studios) was a publicly listed company that made a fortune selling prints on QVC and licensing pictures to companies like Disney, Hallmark, and La-Z-Boy furniture. In the interview, he stated, “We have found a technique to transmit an art that millions of people can comprehend.”
Despite Kinkade’s emphasis on accessibility, his work (and the following debate) has come to represent one of the most contentious aspects of contemporary culture: the problematic junction of populism and elitism. “It’s impossible not to see him as someone who did a lot to inflame culture wars and make a lot of money by articulating to people that they were on the outside, that people were looking down on them, that the art world was laughing at them,” said Alexis Boylan, editor of Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall, a 2011 collection of scholarly essays on Kinkade’s work and influence.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Kinkade has a long history of cursing and heckling other artists and performances, according to former colleagues, staff, and even collectors of his work. He also urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figurine at Disneyland while saying, “This one’s for you, Walt,” according to the New York Times. He allegedly fondled a woman’s breasts during a sales event in South Bend, Indiana, and urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figurine while saying, “This one’s for you, Walt.” In his letter to licensed gallery owners, Kinkade made “exaggerated and simply false personal claims” concerning alcohol-related occurrences. The letter made no mention of a specific incidence.
Media Arts Group CEO John Dandois recalls Kinkade becoming drunk and screaming “Codpiece! Codpiece!” at performers during a Siegfried & Roy magic show in Las Vegas six years before in 2006. He had calmed down by the time his mother arrived. “Thom would be fantastic, but then you couldn’t tell where the limit was, and then he was incredibly incoherent and started swearing and doing a lot of crazy stuff,” Dandois said of Kinkade. “It was impossible to discern where the line was.” Kinkade was arrested for drunken driving in June of that year in Carmel, California. He was later found guilty of a crime.