According to his brother, Patrick, Thomas battled alcoholism for many years. After a period of sobriety, he returned to drinking as personal problems mounted. His company filed for bankruptcy in 2010; he was arrested for drunk driving; he separated from his wife and four daughters, and the personal attacks by art critics had taken a toll on his self esteem. The art critics didn't get it. They dismissed his paintings as fluff; pretty pictures with no meaning. It angered them that this man became so successful off of what they considered "bubble gum" art..
Thomas Kinkade: May You Rest In Peace
Thomas Kinkade, The Painter of Light, died on April 6, 2012 at the age of 54 from an accidental overdose of alcohol combined with Diazepam, an active ingredient in Valium.
I bought three Thomas Kinkade Paintings.
Twelve years ago I sat in my attorney's office in L.A. As we were going over my assets, he asked if I owned any art. At first I said no, but then I remembered the Kinkade paintings.
"Oh! Wait a minute. I have three Thomas Kinkade paintings," I replied.
He replied with a grunt of disgust. "That's not art! You can ask my mother. She teaches art at UCLA."
Did I ever feel stupid!
What's the Big To-Do about Kinkade Paintings
I once read that "real" art elicits an emotional reaction from the observer. That's what Kinkade's paintings do for his fans. They suggest a simpler time in history: A time when a light shone from the window welcoming Dad home from work on a cold winter evening. Logs glowed in the fireplace, Mom had the table set, and the smell of a home cooked meal signaled that dinner was ready. The entire family sat down at the table, someone said grace and conversation flowed throughout the meal.
The nostalgia is part reality and part fiction. Some people had a home like the one depicted but many didn't. No matter what period in time we travel back to, there were wars, families had money problems, disease existed, parents lost children, husbands drank too much and beat their wives and parents abused their children. The list of bad things that humans experience could grow infinitely but so could the good times.
Thomas Kinkade chose to paint the good times.
My Kinkade Paintings
I no longer own the three Kinkade paintings. I donated one to a charity auction and gave the other two to a friend who had helped me out through some hard times. I also decided to become a minimalist.
One of the paintings, Stillwater Cottage, reminded me of my grandparents house in rural Kentucky. When I was a child, my family visited every summer. My grandparents were self-sustaining. They grew their own vegetables and raised animals for meat. I loved the animals. I guess I never got the connection between the dinner table and the hogs, cows and chickens. The lightning bugs, and night sounds emanating from the trees fascinated me. My grandparents and aunts acted like my brothers and I were the only children on earth. They made us feel loved and special. Children and adults sat on the front porch telling stories of yesteryear. Two porch swings completed the picture.
When I looked at Stillwater Cottage hanging over my fireplace, those wonderful times bubbled up to the surface, burying haunting memories of a depressed, abusive mother and the loss of my older brother and my father in an accident.
Kinkade painted Studio in the Garden as a representation of his backyard art studio. The double French doors stand open and a cobblestone path lined with bright flowers lead up the pathway to the entrance. It's an art studio I dreamed of having one day.
The Village Inn is a painting of a bed and breakfast in Northern California. It's a comforting home in the country with a welcoming bench in the front yard.
Home is a common theme in Kinkade's collection of paintings. I had a roof over my head as a child but not a home. Looking at these pretty pictures hanging on the walls of my adult home gave me the sense of peace and nurturing that I craved.
His paintings don't represent an important social cause; they don't depict the horrors of war; and an esoteric meaning isn't buried on the canvas. They simply make many people feel good.
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Thomas Kinkade and Marketing
When Thomas Kinkade's oil paintings were hot on the market, I attended a workshop on marketing your art taught by Molly Barnes, a gallery owner in L.A. She published a book called "How to Get Hung". According to Molly, if you want to get your art recognized, you've got to have a gimmick. Thomas Kinkade promoted himself as a devout Christian and family man. I asked her if that was his gimmick; she replied, "Yes."
The man was a mass marketing genius. His bucolic, idyllic scenes adorn clocks, curtains, jewelry boxes, calendars, and the list goes on. During an interview on 60 Minutes, he stated that he enjoyed the business side of art the most. As the story on the street goes, he had other artists painting his pictures while he tended his billions. It seemed that everywhere you turned there stood a Kinkade Gallery.
I once spent a night on the Queen Mary, docked for life in Long Beach, California. Sure enough, a Kinkade Gallery lived on board. In amazement, I wondered how many people visiting the Queen Mary bought a painting.
The Moral to the Story
I must admit that I became disheartened after Kinkade's death, and the stories of drunkeness, womanizing and general obnoxiousness in public started circulating. My bubble burst. I had bought into all the hype about a devout Christian and family man. I read one of his books that detailed the idyllic courtship and marriage to his wife. He honored her by including her initials in every painting. I admit it: I'm a sappy sentamentalist. I believe his persona was accurate until fame and fortune visited him, but he was a mere mortal with demons to slay like everyone else; not everyone can handle success.
Perfect families and pretty paintings are illusions. I have to keep reminding myself of that everytime a new celebrity comes along.
Thomas Kinkade, why do you care about what the critics say concerning your work? Critics are but a few. You said you wanted to make people feel happy when they look at your art. It's the smiles you put on the faces of millions of people around the world that count. Somewhere right now, somebody pauses to reflect on one of your paintings, and it brings them joy for a moment in their imperfect lives.
Now that you're gone, fans are flocking to buy your art. The prices are going up. Your wife and children have enough money to live quite comfortably for the rest of their lives. You made people happy like you hoped to do.
How many artists can say that about their work?
Rest in peace Thom. You've earned it..