The San Jose Mercury obit noted:
His paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States. Fans cite the warm, familiar feeling of his mass-produced works of art, while it has become fashionable for art critics to dismiss his pieces as tacky. In any event, his prints of idyllic cottages and bucolic garden gates helped establish a brand — famed for their painted highlights — not commonly seen in the art world.
“I’m a warrior for light,” Kinkade told the Mercury News in 2002, alluding not just to his technical skill at creating light on canvas but to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine.
Art Critic Jerry Saltz did not have very kind words for the deceased or for his artistic pronouncements.
The reason the art world doesn’t love Kinkade isn’t that it hates love, life, goodness, or God. We may be silly or soulless or whatever, but we don’t automatically hate things with faith and love or that other people love. We’re not sociopaths. (Well, most of us aren’t.) The reason the art world doesn’t respond to Kinkade is because none â€” not one â€” of his ideas about subject-matter, surface, color, composition, touch, scale, form, or skill is remotely original. They’re all clichÃ© and already told. This is why Kinkade’s pictures strike those in the art world as either prepackaged, ersatz, contrived, or cynical. Unoriginal rote things done in his perfectly conventional, balanced people-pleasing way produced these confected conglomerations of things people wanted to think they wanted to think about, democratic paintings whose meanings are hidden from no one, whose appeal is to not to vex or disturb, to produce doubt or newness. As Kinkade said, “I work to create images that project a serene simplicity that can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone.” Joan Didion wrote that Kinkade’s pictures “typically feature 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 lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.”
Kinkade’s “serene simplicity” wasn’t limited to his ideas about imagery. They had everything to do with what Andy Warhol called “business art.” Kinkade was willing to go the full Warhol. He mass-produced his pictures, making prints and images painted by factories filled with assistants. A recent ad advertised “a Master Highlighter Event … an 8-hour personal stage appearance by a certified Thomas Kinkade Master Highlighter. At the event, a highlighter enhances images of the gallery’s choice.” Needless to say, these are the very things that artists like Kinkade, and of late David Hockney, have railed about when they’re done by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, or Damien Hirst. In fact Kinkade makes Koons & Co. look like a boutique. After all, Jeff Koons never built his own gated communities in California, with houses and grounds in the likeness of his paintings, with starting prices at $425,000. (As for creating serenity, it’s often mentioned that Kinkade “has a long history of cursing and heckling other artists and performers … that he openly groped a woman’s breasts … and once relieved himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure while saying “This one’s for you, Walt.”
Hat tip to Victoria Ordin.