Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade

Infobox Artist
bgcolour = #6495ED
name = Thomas Kinkade

imagesize = 220px
caption = Kinkade with a copy of his painting "Heading Home" presented to the USO in October 2005.
birthname =
birthdate = 1958
location = Sacramento, California
deathdate =
deathplace =
nationality = American
field = Painting
training =
movement =
works =
patrons =
influenced by =
influenced =
awards =

Thomas Kinkade (born January 19, 1958 in Sacramento, California) is an American painter of realistic, bucolic, and idyllic subjects. He is most notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via The Thomas Kinkade Company. He is self described as "Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light" (a trademarked phrase), and as "America's most-collected living artist".cite web
title=About Thomas Kinkade
] It is estimated that 1 in 10 homes in the U.S. feature some form of Thomas Kinkade’s art or licensed product. [National Brand Awareness Study, Landor Associates, 2003]

He has received criticism for the extent to which he has 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,cite web
title=Writer of Dreck™
] and described it as chocolate box art. [cite web
title=Kinkade, king of kitsch, coming to a home near you
publisher=The Independent

Early years

Kinkade grew up in the small town of Placerville, California, graduated from high school in 1976, and attended the University of California, Berkeley and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadenacite book
author = Thomas Kinkade and Rick Barnett
authorlink =
title = The Thomas Kinkade Story, A 20 Year Chronology of the Artist
publisher = Bulfinch Press
date = 2003
isbn = 0821228587
] . He married his wife Nanette in 1982 and the couple went on to have four daughters: Merritt (b. 1988), Chandler (b. 1991), Winsor (b. 1995) and Everett (b. 1997), all named for famous artists.

Some of the people who mentored and taught him long before college were Charles Bell and Glenn Wessels. Wessels encouraged Kinkade to go to the University of California at Berkeley, which Kinkade did. Two years into college Kinkade dropped out. Kinkade's relationship with Wessels is the subject of a to be released semi-autobiographical film.

He spent a summer on a sketching tour with a college friend, producing an instructional book, "The Artist's Guide to Sketching". The success of the book landed him at Ralph Bakshi Studios creating background art for the 1983 animated feature film "Fire and Ice". While working on the film, Kinkade began to explore the depiction of light and of imagined worlds. After the film, Kinkade earned his living as a painter, selling his originals in galleries throughout California.

Artistic themes and style

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

Kinkade says he is placing emphasis on the value of simple pleasures and that his intent is to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages through his work. A self-described "devout Christian" (all of his children have the middle name "Christian"cite web
title=Thomas Kinkade profile
publisher=Notable Names Database
] ),Kinkade has said he gains his inspiration from his religious beliefs and that his work is intended to contain a larger moral dimension. He has also said that his goal as an artist is 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.

Curator Mike McGee has written:

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. [ Grand Central Art Center] ]

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

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. [ Vallance at Grand Central Art Center] ]

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.cite book
authorlink=Joan Didion
title=Where I Was From

She 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". [ "Donner Lake from the Summit" and other paintings of the Hudson River School] ] Didion worries that Kinkade's own treatment of the Sierra Nevada, "The Mountains Declare His Glory", likewise mocks the tragedy of the Yosemite's Sierra Miwok Indians.

Kinkade hides the letter "N" in his paintings as a tribute to his wife, Nanette. He also includes the names and images of his daughters in many of his paintings.


Kinkade's works are sold by mail order and in dedicated retail outlets as high-quality prints, often using texturizing techniques on real canvas to make the surface of the finished prints mimic the raised surface of the original painting. Some of the prints also feature light effects that are painted onto the print surface by hand by "skilled craftsmen," touches that add to the illusion of light and the resemblance to an original work of art. Licensing with Hallmark and other corporations have made it possible for Kinkade's images to be used extensively on other merchandise such as calendars, puzzles, greeting cards, and CDs. He has also authored or been the subject of over 120 books and is the only artist to license his trademark and artwork to multiple housing developments.

Kinkade is reported to have earned $53 million for his artistic work in the period 1997 to May 2005. [ 1997 to May 2005 earnings] ]

Criticism of business practices

Kinkade's company, Media Arts Group Inc., has been accused of unfair dealings with owners of Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery franchises. In 2006, an arbitration board awarded Karen Hazlewood and Jeffrey Spinello $860,000 due to Kinkade's company " [failing] to disclose material information" that would have discouraged them from investing in the gallery.cite news
title=Gallery Owners Win Ruling in Kinkade Case
publisher=Los Angeles Times
—abstract, subscription required for full article] The plaintiffs and other former gallery owners have also leveled accusations of being pressured to open additional galleries that were financially unviable, being forced to take on expensive, unsalable inventory, and being undercut by discount outlets whose prices they were not allowed to match.

Kinkade has denied the accusations and Media Arts Group has successfully defended itself in previous suits by other former gallery owners. Kinkade himself was not singled out in the finding of fraud by the arbitration board.

In August 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that the FBI was investigating these issues, with agents from offices across the country conducting interviews.cite news
title=Painter Said to Be Focus of FBI Probe
publisher=Los Angeles Times
—abstract, subscription required for full article]

Former gallery dealers also charge that Kinkade uses Christianity as a tool to take advantage of people. "They really knew how to bait the hook," said one ex-dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They certainly used the Christian hook." [ [ Thomas Kinkade FBI Investigation] ] One former dealers' lawyer stated "Most of my clients got involved with Kinkade because it was presented as a religious opportunity. Being defrauded is awful enough, but doing it in the name of God is really despicable." [ [ Virginia Kincade dealers prevail in arbitration] ]

Related projects and partnerships

Kinkade has been selected by a number of organizations to celebrate milestones, including Disneyland's 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World Resort’s 35th Anniversary, Elvis Presley’s purchase of Graceland 50 years ago and the 25th anniversary of its opening to the public, and Yankee Stadium’s farewell 85th season in 2008. Kinkade also paid tribute to "America's Most Beloved Ballpark" (a trademarked phrase), Fenway Park.cite book
author = The Thomas Kinkade Company
authorlink =
title = Thomas Kinkade: Twenty-Five Years
publisher = Andrews McMeel Publishing
date = 2008
isbn = 13: 978-0-7407-7703-5; 10: 0-7407-7703-3

Kinkade was also chosen as the artist of choice to capture the historic Asheville, North Carolina mansion, Biltmore House, on canvas and will introduce the Commemorative Portrait of the 50th Running of the Daytona in 2008.

In 2001 Media Arts unveiled "The Village at Hiddenbrooke," a Thomas Kinkade-themed community of homes, built outside of Vallejo, California in partnership with the international construction firm Taylor Woodrow.cite news
title=Ticky-tacky houses from "The Painter of Light"

Personal conduct

The "Los Angeles Times" report that some of Kinkade's former colleagues, employees, and even collectors of his work say that he has a long history of cursing and heckling other artists and performers. The Times further reports that he openly groped a woman's breasts at a South Bend, Indiana sales event, and mentioned his proclivity for ritual territory marking through urination.cite news
title=Dark Portrait of a 'Painter of Light'
publisher=Los Angeles Times
—abstract, subscription required for full article] Kinkade denied some of the Times's allegations, but accepted and apologized for others.cite news
title=Kinkade Defends Self but Says 'Sorry'
publisher=Los Angeles Times
—abstract, subscription required for full article]

In 2006 John Dandois, Media Arts Group executive, recounted a story that on one occasion ("about six years ago") Kinkade became drunk at a Siegfried and Roy magic show in Las Vegas and began shouting "Codpiece! Codpiece!" at the performers. Eventually he was calmed by his mother.Dandois also said of Kinkade, "Thom would be fine, he would be drinking, and then all of a sudden, you couldn't tell where the boundary was, and then he became very incoherent, and he would start cussing and doing a lot of weird stuff."

Charities and affiliations

Kinkade has supported non-profit organizations focusing on children, humanitarian relief, and the arts, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, World Vision, Art for Children Charities, and The Salvation Army.

In 2002, he partnered with The Salvation Army to create two charity prints, The Season of Giving and The Light of Freedom. Proceeds from the sale of the prints were donated to The Salvation Army for their relief efforts at Ground Zero and to aid the victims of the attacks and their families in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. More than $2 million was donated as a result of this affiliation. In 2003, Kinkade was chosen as a National Spokesman for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and during the 20 Years of Light Tour in 2004, he raised over $750,000 and granted 12 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

In 2005, the Points of Light Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging more people more effectively in volunteer service to help solve serious social problems, named Kinkade as Ambassador of Light. He is the second person in the Foundation’s 15-year history to be chosen as Ambassador, the first being the organization’s founder, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. During his Ambassador of Light Tour, Kinkade visited cities nationwide to raise awareness and money for the Points of Light Foundation and the Volunteer Center National Network, which serves over 360 Points of Light member Volunteer Centers in communities across the country.

Awards and recognitions

Kinkade has received many awards for his works, including multiple National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED) awards for Artist of the Year and Graphic Artist of the Year, and his art has been named Lithograph of the Year nine times.

In 2002, Kinkade was inducted into the California Tourism Hall of Fame as an individual who has influenced the public’s perception of tourism in California through his images of California sights. He was selected to commemorate the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the 2002 World Series. He was also honored with the 2002 World Children’s Center Humanitarian Award for his contributions to improving the welfare of children and their families through his work with Kolorful Kids and Art for Children.

In 2003, Kinkade was chosen as a national spokesperson for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. And, in 2004, he was selected for a second time by the Christmas Pageant of Peace to paint the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. The painting, Symbols of Freedom, was the official image for the 2004 Pageant of Peace.

In 2004, Kinkade received an award from NALED recognizing him as the Most Award Winning Artist in the Past 25 Years. Most recently in 2005, he was named the NALED Graphic Artist of the Year. He was also recognized for his philanthropic efforts by NALED with the Eugene Freedman Humanitarian Award.

In popular culture

Kinkade's pieces are extremely popular in the United States among evangelical Christians. In Kinkade's own words:

There's been million-seller books and million-seller CDs. But there hasn't been, until now, million-seller art. We have found a way to bring to millions of people, an art that they can understand. [ 60 Minutes interview] ]

In early 2006, Joel Kilpatrick released his book "A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat." A light-hearted cultural criticism done in the handbook format similar to "The Official Preppy Handbook" of the 1980s, the book says that evangelicals tend to favor a particular home decor style centered around Thomas Kinkade paintings (the bigger, the better) and Precious Moments figurines.

In Heath and Potter's book The Rebel Sell, Kinkade's art is described as "so awful it must be seen to be believed."

Kinkade's art is parodied on the comedy website Something Awful [] [] [] []

A movie about Kinkade, "Thomas Kinkade's Home for Christmas", is scheduled for release in late 2008. According to IMDB, it is a look at the inspiration behind his painting "The Christmas Cottage". Jared Padalecki plays Kinkade and Marcia Gay Harden plays his mother. [ [] ] .


External links

* [ Official site]
*San Diego Union-Tribune, [ "Heaven on Earth" for Kinkade fans]

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