Thomas Kinkade Artistic themes and style

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A key feature of Thomas Kinkade's paintings are their glowing highlights and saturated pastel colors. Rendered in highly idealistic American scene painting values, his works often portray bucolic, idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, lighthouses and Main Streets. His hometown of Placerville (where his works are omnipresent) is the inspiration of many of his street and snow scenes. He has also depicted various Christian themes including the Christian cross and churches.

A key feature of Thomas Kinkade's paintings are their glowing highlights and saturated pastel colors. Rendered in highly idealistic American scene painting values, his works often portray bucolic, idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, lighthouses and Main Streets. His hometown of Placerville (where his works are omnipresent) is the inspiration of many of his street and snow scenes. He has also depicted various Christian themes including the Christian cross and churches.

The fine-art world overwhelmingly derided Kinkade's work as little more than commercially successful kitsch.Kinkade received criticism for the extent to which he had commercialized his art, for example, selling his prints on the QVC home shopping network. Others have written that his paintings are merely kitsch, without substance,and have described them as chocolate box art[9] and "mall art." In a 2001 interview, Kinkade proclaimed, "I am really the most controversial artist in the world."

Kinkade said he was placing emphasis on the value of simple pleasures and that his intent was to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages through his work. A self-described "devout Christian" (even giving all 4 of his children the middle name "Christian"), Kinkade said he gained his inspiration from his religious beliefs and that his work was intended to contain a larger moral dimension. He has also said that his goal as an artist was to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images he creates. Many pictures contain specific chapter-and-verse allusions to certain Bible passages.

Kinkade said, "I am often asked why there are no people in my paintings," but in 2009 he painted a portrait of the Indianapolis Speedway for the cover of that year's Indianapolis 500 race program that included details of the diversity of the crowd, hiding among them the figures of Norman Rockwell and Dale Earnhardt. He also painted the farewell portrait for Yankee Stadium. About the Indianapolis Speedway painting, Kinkade said:

    The passion I have is to capture memories, to evoke the emotional connection we have to an experience. I came out here and stood up on the bleachers and looked around, and I saw all the elements of the track. It was empty at the time. But I saw the stadium, how the track laid out, the horizon, the skyline of Indianapolis and the Pagoda. I saw it all in my imagination. I began thinking, 'I want to get this energy — what I call the excitement of the moment — into this painting.' As I began working on it, I thought, 'Well you have this big piece of asphalt, the huge spectator stands; I've got to do something to get some movement.' So I just started throwing flags into it. It gives it kind of a patriotic excitement.

Mike McGee, director of the CSUF Grand Central Art Center at California State University Fullerton, has written of the Thomas Kinkade Heaven on Earth exhibition:

    Looking just at the paintings themselves it is obvious that they are technically competent. Kinkade's genius, however, is in his capacity to identify and fulfill the needs and desires of his target audience—he cites his mother as a key influence and archetypal audience — and to couple this with savvy marketing ... If Kinkade's art is principally about ideas, and I think it is, it could be suggested that he is a Conceptual artist. All he would have to do to solidify this position would be to make an announcement that the beliefs he has expounded are just Duchampian posturing to achieve his successes. But this will never happen. Kinkade earnestly believes in his faith in God and his personal agenda as an artist.

Artist and Guggenheim Fellow Jeffrey Vallance has spoken about Kinkade's devout religious themes and their reception in the art world:[16]

    This is another area that the contemporary art world has a hard time with, that I find interesting. He expresses what he believes and puts that in his art. That is not the trend in the high-art world at the moment, the idea that you can express things spiritually and be taken seriously ... It is always difficult to present serious religious ideas in an art context. That is why I like Kinkade. It is a difficult thing to do.

Essayist Joan Didion is a representative critic of Kinkade's style:

    A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. 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.

Didion goes on to compare the "Kinkade Glow" to the luminism of 19th-century painter Albert Bierstadt, who sentimentalized the infamous Donner Pass in his Donner Lake from the Summit. Didion sees "unsettling similarities" between the two painters, and worries that Kinkade's own treatment of the Sierra Nevada, The Mountains Declare His Glory, similarly ignores the tragedy of the forced dispersal of Yosemite's Sierra Miwok Indians during the Gold Rush, by including an imaginary Miwok camp as what he calls "an affirmation that man has his place, even in a setting touched by God's glory."

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