Thomas Kinkade: Art, Christianity, and Hypocrisy

“New York, Central Park at Sixth Avenue" by Thomas Kinkade, from 1988, before he became the "Painter of Light" (TM)

Artist Thomas Kinkade died on Good Friday, which is probably how he would have wanted it (albeit about 30 years from now). Kinkade was a Christian, and his Christianity was just one of the many things that rankled his critics.

Let’s be very clear here right at the outset. Thomas Kinkade was not a bad artist. Thomas Kinkade was an exceptionally talented artist with excruciatingly bad taste. He was a hack, and a tremendously successful one. A hack is someone who sells his talent to the highest bidder, with little concern for niceties like artistic integrity. I’m a hack myself, and let me tell you something: if I found a way to create the writing equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting, and make as much money as he did, I’d do it in trice.

Frankly, his work gave me the weejums. Simcha Fisher nailed it when she wrote

By showing light in the form of exaggerated highlights, fuzzy halos, and a hyperluminescent shine on everything, regardless of where they are in the composition, he isn’t revealing the true nature of—anything.  It’s a bafflingly incoherent mish-mosh of light:  an orange sunset here, a pearly mid-morning sheen there, a crystal-clear reflection in one spot, a hazy mist in the other—all impossibly coexisting in the same scene.  This picture:

makes sense only as a depiction of an oncoming storm, with heavy smog in some spots and total visibility just inches away (blown by what wind, when the chimney smoke rises undisturbed?), several cordless Klieg lights, possibly a partial eclipse, and that most cheerful of pastoral daydreams: a robust house fire.  This is a lovely fantasy in the same way as it makes lovely music when all of your favorite instruments play as loudly as they can at the same time.  Listen, and go mad.

Where is the source of light? This isn’t just clumsy execution, this is an artist who cannot see—who knows nothing at all about light, what it is for, or whence it comes.  (Or, more frightfully, an accomplished artist who has discovered that it’s much more lucrative to quash his understanding of these things.)

Kinkade isn’t content with shying away from ugliness:  He sees nothing beautiful in the world the way it is.  He thinks it needs polishing.  He loves the world in the same way that a pageant mom thinks her child is just adorable—or will be, after she loses ten pounds, dyes and curls her hair, gets implants, and makes herself almost unrecognizable with a thick layer of make-up.  Normal people recoil from such extreme artifice—not because they hate beauty, but because they love it.

Kinkade-style light doesn’t show an affection for natural beauty—it shows his disdain for it. His light doesn’t reveal, it distorts. His paintings aren’t merely trivial, they’re a statement of contempt for the world. His vision of the world isn’t just tacky, it’s anti-Incarnational.

I understood Kinkade better when I started seeing him not as an artist in the tradition of the Hudson River School who went spectacularly wrong, but as a fantasy illustrator like his good friend and collaborator, artist James Gurney.  He wasn’t a Rockwellian realist like Terry Redlin. He was a painter of fantasy landscapes, like Roger Dean with cozy cottages.

Joe Carter, writing in First Things, uncovered this amazing bit of contrast between early and later Kinkade.


The painting on the left (from 1998) is a remarkably accomplished piece of art. It’s a little masterpiece that captures mood and place with skilled use of shadow and light. The painting on the right (from 2004) sacrifices that mood on the altar, not of hyper-realism, but of fantasy. There is an unpleasant artificiality to the scene, particularly in the garish use of the light and the bizarre color choices. Is the mauve sky supposed to show a sunset, or the onrushing Apocalypse?

I really do commend Carter’s entire piece as an analysis of the Kinkade phenomena, and I think he strikes at the heart of what Kinkade gets wrong:

There is nothing wrong, or course, with fantasy or with what C.S. Lewis calledSehnsucht, the inconsolable longing in the human heart for “we know not what.” What makes Kinkade’s cottage painting so dispiriting is that rather than being created to challenge or even inspire, to evoke in some way the desire for Heaven, it’s intended only to comfort. It’s sentimental.

Sentimentality, as literary critic Alan Jacobs says in a recent interview with Mars Hill Journal, encourages us to “suspend judgment and reflection in order to indulge deliberately in emotion for its own sake.” Reflection reinforces and strengthens true emotions while exposing those feelings that are shallow and disingenuous. Sentimentalists, however, try to avoid this experience of reality and try to keep people from asking questions by giving them pleasing emotions they have not earned. The shameless manipulation of our emotions, says Jacobs, is the ultimate act of cynicism.

This is why Kinkade’s art doesn’t, ultimately, work as pure fantasy art. It’s not his intention to bring us to a wondrous Deanean landscape that never was and never could be, but offer a reassuring fantasy by manipulating common images and emotions to create a cynical idea of what we might almost have, or might have lost. And he does it badly. His use of color, of light, of halos—all of them turned up to 11—is like sitting down to a meal of whipped topping, chocolate jimmies, and sugar cubes.

Kinkade the Man, and the Christian

Kinkade’s critics reveled in his misdeeds (and, apparently, they were legion), and how they revealed the hypocrisy at the heart of every Christian. Secularists and anti-Christians really need to get a grip on this point: “hypocrisy” is not when a Christian fails to live up the ideals of his faith, no matter how loudly he proclaims those ideals or how spectacularly he fails to live them.

Hypocrisy is when you set up one standard for yourself and another standard for others. The hypocrites condemned by Jesus (Mark 7:6, Matthew 23:14) merely made a show of their faith, while their hearts were far from God.

A Christian who merely pretends to have a faith he does not truly have is a hypocrite. Jesus was able to call the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites because he could look into their souls. That’s not a gift we’re given.

A Christian who believes and proclaims a sincerely held faith, yet who falls into sin, is not a hypocrite. He’s a human being. Neither the loudness of the proclamation nor the severity of the fall are relevant, no matter how much it titillates the gossips and allows a secular world to sneer. It gives scandal, and as such it is wrong and offensive to God and the body of Christ, but it is not some grand statement on faith itself. It’s not even a statement on the faith of the sinner, since we cannot know what is in the heart of a man, or what demons he battles on a daily basis.

Clearly, Kinkade had demons. He was regarded by some as kind of a bully, he had drinking issues, he was prone to unfortunate episodes of public micturition involving Winnie the Pooh, and was implicated in various financial misdeeds. Yet he also had the love of his family and friends, gave joy to millions, provided money to the poor and sick, and proclaimed the Gospel. It’s not our place to judge the state of his soul. God doesn’t need our help rendering judgment. He’s got that covered just fine, as we’ll all learn soon enough.

Kinkade’s most successful work was crass and unappealing, but at least he was trying to create something beautiful that evoked a good feeling in people, no matter how badly he went about it. The modern art most praised by the art establishment is nasty, ugly, pointless, dehumanizing garbage with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Crap artists like Tracy Emin are lionized by critics and showered with cash for turning out un-art that shows nothing but contempt for humanity.

The cosmic joke is that, technically, Kinkade’s skills are so far superior to Emin’s that it’s almost comical, but he made the mistake of peddling hope instead of despair, and that’s an unforgivable sin in the post-modern world. If his cozy cottages were splashed with blood and sheathed in condoms, he’d have his own wing in the MOMA by now. And that, not Kinkade’s comforting kitschy fantasies, is the real crime of modern art.

In any event, may he rest in peace, and may God grant comfort to those who loved him.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

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  • https://foothills.wjduquette.com/blog Will Duquette

    I love Roger Dean’s stuff; I used to have a bunch of posters of his work. I still do have a couple of pieces by James Gurney on the walls. I don’t have any Kinkade; don’t like his stuff.

    But you’re absolutely right: the man had great skill, and I can respect that, even if I can’t respect what he did with it. Most especially, his work stood on its own: you can look at a Kinkade and assess it for what it is. You don’t need the artist’s code book to make sense of it, whereas so much of the modern art I see is ugly, meaningless, self-indulgent, and consequently a waste of space.

  • Wendy Jayson

    This sounds like a bunch of sour grapes hogwash written by someone who was extremely coveteous of the success which was enjoyed by Thomas Kinkade. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and apparantly there were many eyes which enjoyed his work. I pray that his paintings are sold to museums all over the word so that we all can enjoy his work and so that the proceeds may be used to bless the needy and to reach the lost for Christ! Bless the family of Thomas Kinkade. May the Holy Spirit comfort your hearts as you grieve such a great loss. Thomas will be missed.

  • http://CamptiCatholicChurch.com Fr. Humphries

    Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is God’s goodness – His perfection – revealed in His creation and appreciated through the senses. At very best, the appreciation of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One thing’s for sure though – beauty is an objective truth as the author tries to explain. We have to be careful of parroting secular notions of beauty and art which are based in athiesm and unreality.

    @Wendy – think about what you’re saying… If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then isn’t all of truth and goodness of God just my opinion? Isn’t His very existence just my opinion? Kinkade didn’t celebrate the beauty of Divine creation, He rejected it in favor of something that could never be… He pretended that the light of creation came not from God but from the things themselves. He may be missed, but he will never be any good.

  • bt

    What kind of light did Peter, James, and John see when they witnessed the transfiguration? Light, clouds, the sky, weather, and shadows, can create a myriad of compositions, some of which are very unique and truly stunning. I would like to think that Thomas Kinkade offered us some small glimpse into a corner of Heaven.

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  • russophile

    I don’t care for his art, but I wish you hadn’t listed his “demons.” That was new information to me and not anything I or anyone else needed to know. Detraction is a sin.

  • Howard

    In some sense, what you say is true; but to the extent it is true, it is not a statement about what you or I find familiar, pleasant, comfortable, or even beautiful. To the extent that beauty is objective, it is something that is properly perceived only by God (and, presumably, the holy angels and Saints in Heaven). Our perceptions may hint at this reality, but those hints are faulty. We cannot really see objective beauty, we must philosophize about it.

    Part of the problem is the Fall. We are all affected, and we tend to overvalue the superficial. No doubt Delilah was beautiful, but her beauty was deceptive. For that matter, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes,” and from that superificial evaluation all kinds of ugliness has flowed.

    Another part, though, is that we are finite beings. Our perception of something as beautiful is heavily influenced by its suitability for us in some way or another. A mosquito is not beautiful to me because I know it can bite me and make for an itchy bump, or even pass on diseases to me. A fit, healthy horse is beautiful, not just as an animal but as an animal whose use I understand. A woman from my own culture is likely to seem more beautiful to me than a woman from another culture, and it is no coincidence that it would be easier to make a good marriage with a woman from my own culture.

    What I want to avoid is any hint of the idea that your taste or my taste is somehow a reflection of God’s own supreme judgement, so that we can look down on those with different artistic tastes as being somehow less godly.

  • http://anthonysartandframes.com Anthony Self

    Mr. Kinkade was a gifted and talented painter. He was no more than an illustrator really but then so was Norman Rockwell. I enjoy looking at his pieces (although after a while they all seem to look alike) but would never hang one in my home nor would I run out and buy a coffee cup or paper cocktail napkins with his images on them. He, like many of todays artists was over produced and became too “common” for my taste. I like one of a kind, inovative pieces. I can see were millions of people would like to collect his work. I have owned a gallery and frame shop for 31 years and have re-framed dozens of them even for people who can and do collect fine art as well. One rainy day after a long, long month of no business and several days of prayer, a lady brought in 8 Kinkades for reframing. She paid the bills that month. I thanked God for Thomas Kinkade that day! Members of my own family have bought his pieces (I warned them that they would probably never be worth much more than they paid, if that, as they were over-produced, often in runs of 10,000 or more) but I think they look nice in their homes. They like them and somehow find them to their liking and that’s all that really matters. An original Kinkade would be nice! An original Norman Rockwell would be nice! Or even an original Keene (the kids with the big eyes from the 1960s) would be nice. I think Mr. Kincade was a sharp and shrewed business man and maybe not always nice. I never cared for “nice” people anyway. I like the “good” in people. Nice can be faked. Good comes from the heart. Only God is good. Good people never fake nice because they don’t have to and nice people don’t always know what goodness is. Over the years I have heard many stories and rumors about him from others in the art community. That all being said and being that none of us is perfect, I am sorry for his early passing and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and daughters. I hope he made peace with himself and with God. I hope that for us all. I hope he is now in one of those little dream-like cottages on the seashore waiting for them. Keep the lights burning in those windows Mr. Kinkade. We will all see you later.

  • David Falkner

    I liked his work. Well, some of the pieces. I am somewhat eclectic in my tastes, though. You can certainly pick out pieces of his that look terrible, but he must have painted on a bell curve because some pieces are as good as the others are bad. That’s my opinion, but I am well more than 3 standard deviations from normal. :-)

  • T.E.

    Good writing doesn’t mix metaphors. We avoid saying things like “sour grapes hogwash.” Why? Because the phrase means nothing; what is a “sour grapes hogwash”? It’s nothing, because it’s not a thing. It’s nothing but emotions (“I disagree!!!!”) coded in images (sour grapes, hogwash) that do not go together in the real world. We read a line like “sour grapes hogwash” and we know it means nothing, except incoherent disagreement.

    That is exactly the problem with Thomas Kinkade. He takes images that encode warm and cozy feelings (cottages, light, forests, rivers, stone bridges) and throws them together in ways that do not go together in the real world. We see these paintings, the huts built a foot from a teaming river with everything glowing in impossible directions, and we know it means nothing, except incoherent coziness.

    That’s why the quoted review–” This is a lovely fantasy in the same way as it makes lovely music when all of your favorite instruments play as loudly as they can at the same time. Listen, and go mad.”–was exactly right.

    Kinkade encoded prompts to feel warm and fuzzy with notable technical skill. He did not produce art that was great, that offered redeeming insights into the world that exists or could ever possibly exist.

  • Mark

    Mr. McDonald, I agree with russophile. Please, for the sake of your readers as well as for your own sake, remove the specifically personal material about Mr. Kincade. Thank you.

  • Henry

    So I go to newadvent.org for some solid Catholic news and what do I find? Some elitists making an abject postmortem attack on one of my my favorite artiest. I could understand if someone didn’t like his work and wanted to criticize it, but to try and turn it into something that is the result of a warped point of view or sinful is outrageous. Why don’t you go to Rome and take a look at the Sistine chapel and gaze up at the “unrealistic” and “fanciful” deceptions of a European Jesus with a Herculean physic and try to say the same things about Michelangelo as you are to Thomas Kinkade. Which would be nothing new because a bunch of snobs beat you too it with the same kind or rhetoric 500 years ago. Oh and when you are done with the Sistine Chapel why don’t you go take a look at all the unrealistic paintings and sculptures of Jesus, our Blessed Mother, the angels or the saints and compare the artists to “pageant moms who hate natural beauty” or accuse them of being “sentimentalists”. How about our Lady of Guadalupe!? The Blessed Mother painting herself as an Aztec princess, HOW DISINGENUOUS!

    @Fr. Humphries – “Kinkade didn’t celebrate the beauty of Divine creation, He rejected it in favor of something that could never be… He pretended that the light of creation came not from God but from the things themselves.” Did you actually hear or read him say something to that effect Father or is that your judgement based on his work?

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    I’m sympathetic to your concerns, but the material is a matter of public record, it was the subject of numerous articles (including obituaries), and is even part of his Wiki entry. I didn’t elaborate in an inappropriate manner, and I paired it with positive elements as well. We don’t serve the body of Christ by empty gossip and scandal-mongering, but neither do we serve it by attempting to hide the sins of our fellow Christians. For better or worse, once he made his religion his business (and his primary marketing appeal was to evangelical Christians) he had to know his reckless personal behavior would be a matter of public commentary. I felt I handled it in a balanced way, and I will be leaving it up.

  • Jordan

    Anyone who’s not so fond of modern art such as the work of Tracy Emin, and for that matter everyone else as well, please watch this documentary. It’s simply exceptional.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiajXQUppYY

  • RichardC

    I was wondering if Thomas Kinkade could be considered the artist of Limbo. As I understand it, in Limbo, everyone wants to be, and is, nice. Therefore, they could live in a world where everything is and looks nice. This comment is not meant to either affirm or deny the existence of Limbo.

    Happy Easter!

  • Lee Gilbert

    “Thomas Kinkade was an exceptionally talented artist with excruciatingly bad taste. He was a hack, and a tremendously successful one. A hack is someone who sells his talent to the highest bidder, with little concern for niceties like artistic integrity. ”

    De gustibus. As far as his integrity is concerned, artistic or otherwise, all that will be sorted out by another tribunal. Regarding light sources, the world that he evidently was painting “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. . . .” (Rev 21:23). Requiescat in pace.

  • http://reactionarydrivel.blogspot.com Mack Hall, High School Graduate

    Mr. McD,

    Your piece on Thomas Kincade is brilliant and balanced. You demonstrate caritas to Mr. Kincade without patronizing him. Thank you.

  • Mark

    Thank you for the considered response. God bless you, and Happy Easter! Christ is risen!

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    Joe Carter’s piece on Kincaid is truly excellent and worth reading– I think I’ve read it every year for a while. Joe Carter does not write enough, these days!

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  • http://thecatholicbeat.sacredheartradio.com/ Gail Finke

    Thanks for this nice, balanced piece. I have never liked Thomas Kinkade’s work, finding it sentimental and often (as Simcha’s review stated) a little wacky. I mean, how can all the flowers be out AND it be twilight? Flowers close up at night. That said, who really cares? Some art is timeless and some is just whatever the popular tastes of the times dictates. Some things we think are great today were scorned during the artists’s life, and some things everyone thought were genius are forgotten. A lot of people like these paintings, they make a lot of people happy, and I don’t see why an artist shouldn’t paint things that people really want to buy. It doesn’t require my stamp of approval.

    When I was 12, I got to go to Paris with my family. What I remember about Sacre Coeur is all the painters there. Even I could tell that they were mostly really bad painters. I remember bad fuzzy paintings of Parisian scenes, and big-eyed girls — and these amazing paintings I could have looked at for hours of sea captains smoking pipes. They had craggy faces, and the embers in the pipes looked real! That was a popular subject for amateur artists that seems to have fallen out of favor, maybe because it is now a mortal sin to smoke. Anyway, even as a 12-year-old I knew they were just a gimmick. But you know what? I would hang one of those up in my house right now if I had one. Because they made me happy. So I do not begrudge anyone a Thomas Kinkade painting. There are a lot worse things they could have.

  • Meggan

    I thank you for this post. I don’t care for Kinkade’s art and am really pleased to see some of his early paintings. I have found respect for him. I also thank you for talking about the entire man – even his failings. Every person in this world has failings. Thank God that in spite of that we can also produce wonderful things that make people happy.

  • Meggan

    Wow. I thought that the assessment here was kind. It made me actually find some value in Kinkade’s paintings. I don’t really like Kinkade’s “Painter of Light” paintings. But, looking at his paintings as fantasy paintings gives me a whole new perspective. I didn’t think this blog post was an attack, but a tribute to the man.

  • Meggan

    One thing about Thomas Kinkade’s paintings that always made me chuckle – the people who live in those cottages must have an enormous electric bill! Lights on in every room of the house!!

  • Tapestry

    I don’t think the critics of your article actually read anything past the first paragraph.
    Don’t you just hate it when people criticize but they don’t quietly listen to everything before they last out at your first few words?
    You did fine Thomas McDonald, may the those who lashed out actually go back and read your entire piece and stop being so darn negative!
    I didn’t come away with any negative vibes.. until I read the comment section!

  • Miriam

    My two sisters love his paintings (the whole painter of light series of stuff).

    Me, not so much. I have found his early work lovely.

  • Patt

    As a former art major I dare say that your analysis of Kincaid is correct. Most people do not care–as they have not developed a discerning eye. So “art” ends up being judged as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. We all have different taste buds too, what one likes, another hates. As for me, I’d never have his work in my home.

  • florin

    You may not know what ‘sourgrapes hogwash’ means so you take it apart to show your intellectual superiority and I say to you – sourgrapes hogwash! Do you get it now?

  • florin

    No one asked you to ‘hide the sins of others’ but I get the feeling you were just trying to detract from this man’s appeal to millions who are perhaps, in your opinion, less capable of seeing beyond the picture into an eternal beautify that is beyond comprehension and defies ordinary composition-totally uncalled for: wrong time, wrong place…

  • T.E.

    ?

  • Karen Webster

    Thank you for an honest and broad look. I’ll admit I find Kincaid groan worthy, but I greatly appreciate the balance you achieved in your reflection. I don’t think I’ve read anything that didn’t take joy in reaming Christians with a ‘ha ha you suck’ approach, but just letting the man be a human who fails was refreshing and kind. Nice piece.

  • Linus

    I don’t really understand all the criticism. If you are an artist with talent and you
    intend to make your living with your art, you have to paint what the public will buy. I see nothing wrong with that as long as your art doesn’t transgress the moral law. And also, perhaps Kinkade actually enjoied producing the kind of art he did – the best of both worlds, he liked it and he made it pay. I happen to like most of his work, though my preferance is to traditional landscapes, etc.

  • Pete McNesbitt

    Sour Grapes = envy. Hogwash = bulls!it. Punctuation helps separate those two different ideas. As in I think what you are saying is hogwash. Mayhap you are merely full of sour grapes, at Kinkade’s material wealth, at the expense of your dislike of his art style.

  • Dale Price

    First of all, the fact you think Michelangelo and Kinkade are in the same weight class pretty well diagnoses the problem. Kinkade was a capable artist, but he can’t carry a Renaissance master’s palette.

    Another essential problem is that you are comparing observational details (dressing the subjects in contemporary clothes) with the purely imaginary (the bizarre light geigering out of the Strontium Cottage). Michelangelo saw people with those physiques, or dressed in that apparel, and designed his work accordingly. No such things can be observed to inspire the Strontium Cottage.

    “They want light–I’ll give them light. In truckload lots!”

    Voila–a technical mess.

    In short, there are technical grounds/objective standards upon which art can be criticized. Including my favorite artist. And, alas, even yours. Accordingly, the mass-produced work of Mr. Kinkade falls short in those categories.

    Your sensitivities to criticism aside, that he fell short in his mass-produced work does not make Kinkade a *bad* artist. All artists stumble, as a trip to your any worthwhile art museum will reveal.

  • http://www.theleenmachine.blogspot.com KML

    Thoughtful and balanced post, Mr. McDonald. As an artist myself (although not a painter – I’m a musician), it brings up an interesting and perennial discussion for those of us who are both Christians and artists. As has been discussed elsewhere (Brandon Vogt has taken this subject up), just because an artistic endeavor is Christian does not make it inherently of good quality, and often I’ve found people jumping to defend something that is truly sub-par just because it is Christian out of a misplaced sense of duty to reward someone who is willing to put it out there into the world. I wonder how much good that really does.

    I’ve participated in some truly awful musical productions in the name of Christianity. But of course, it is my assessment as a professional musician who would much rather find Christian inspiration in JS Bach than Marty Haugen, and there were no doubt people at those terrible-to-me productions who found solace and inspiration in the performance. I suppose to each their own.

  • http://www.theleenmachine.blogspot.com KML

    Also, enjoyed very much your assessment of what hypocrisy is and isn’t. One of those little post-modern interpretations that drives me up a wall.

  • Joe

    It’s silly to claim that Kinkade is a more accomplished artist than Emin (except in the very limited sense of drawing skill) but that doesn’t mean Emin’s work isn’t also nasty, ugly and dehumanizing.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    How so? Her technical skills are rudimentary, at best. Her work is a triumph of empty ideas over any kind of craft. She’s not an artist at all, but someone who merely sells the art establishment what it wants to buy. Say what you will about Kinkade, but at least the man knew what end of a brush to grab hold of, unlike the creator of this: http://www.artvalue.com/photos/auction/0/49/49192/emin-tracey-1963-united-kingdo-floral-still-life-2754984-500-500-2754984.jpg

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Thanks! It is an irritating thing. I was looking at Kinkade coverage on anti-Christian sites and they were all shouting “hypocrite!”

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  • marcia g

    I guess a part of the thrill of being a “blogger” is getting people stirred up over what you write. That’s not unlike being a painter who paints for profit rather than producing the quality art of which they are capable.

    Do you ever notice how the truly humble are hardly ever great critics because they know themselves very well, while on the other hand……..

    Alleluia, Alleluia, He is Risen! Good thing for us!

  • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon

    It’s hardly the wrong time and wrong place since it needs to be addressed to a sufficient extent to say why it does not take away from Kinkade’s actual achievements.

    And, it should be noted, one cannot identify the sin of detraction by the ‘feeling’ one gets.

  • Dale Price

    Do you ever notice how the truly humble are hardly ever great critics

    Seriously?

    You need to get better acquainted with the corpus of the saints, many of whom were quite the flamethrowers (e.g., St. Jerome).

    However, it is manifestly the case that the truly humble are not passive-aggressives.

  • http://brianhgill.com Brian H. Gill

    I haven’t studied Kinkade’s work enough to have an informed opinion. I *like* it, although it’s not necessarily the sort of thing I’m most likely to put on the wall.

    I think you may have hit a key point: that Kinkade’s decision to focus on “hope instead of despair” means that his work isn’t ‘relevant,’ or whatever the fashionable word for ‘cool’ is these days.

    Like the fellow said: “By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece.” G. K. Chesterton (via The Quotations Page)

  • marcia g.

    thanks Dale – i learn something new every day

    =-)

  • passingthrough

    I think Jesus was a pretty good critic and he humbled himself to death on a cross.

  • Nedra

    Mr. Kindade’s paintings evoked in me, and in millions of others, the warmth, light and wonderful longings for those scenes that we have in our innermost hearts in the midst of a less than warm and wonderful reality that is a part of this earthly life. They removed us, even momentarily, from harsh realities and transported us to more gracious times, even though we may never have personally experienced them in just those ways. They were sweet and hopeful flights of fancy. That is not bad, it is good.
    While we wait for the reality of living in HIS glow in the real life that is to come, these paintings capture just a little of that joy which is to come for those who love HIM.

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  • daisy

    Envy really is an ugly thing. I’d rather have Thomas Kinkade’s prints on my living room wall than anything produced by the art critics.

  • Jon

    Must say that I enjoyed this article and the following commetary. What’s ironic is that, for me, it was as relevant to the subject of religion as it was to the life of Thomas Kinkade. For those with no religious beliefs, Kinkade’s art is the perfect metaphor for religion in general, and Chritianity in particular. In one, we are asked to suspend judgement, in the other, reason. You can take Sima Fisher’s or Joe Carter’s spot-on analyses of Kinkade’s work, and apply it just as easily to religion.
    Don’t get me wrong, I too prefer Kinkade to the “crap” that Tracy Emin peddles. One needn’t be religious to prefer hope to despair. But as Anais Nin once wrote, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
    For those who loved Mr Kinkade or his work, and even those who didn’t, I wish you well.

  • http://scifichristianguy.blogspot.com/ Gary

    The critical and personal lambasting Thomas Kinkade receives here upon his death causes me to like him all the more! Critics have always fascinated me by the art they choose to applaud and the art they choose to criticize, and the reasons behind why they do both. They will applaud the strangeness of Salvador Dali and criticize Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. They will applaud the slapstick of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and severely criticize the slapstick of Abbott and Costello and Gilligan’s Island. They will revere fashion that is so bizarre as to be totally useless to the common man. And in this atmosphere, Thomas Kinkade is seen as a sell-out, selling his fantasies to the highest bidder. Never mind that his paintings produce good feelings and warmth for millions of people!
    Well fantasy isn’t reality, and I enjoy his paintings because they brighten an otherwise dreary room at the risk of losing the thematic drama of more serious artists. Certainly, there has to be room for a painter like Thomas Kinkade, and a lot could be said for the fact that he painted what people wanted, rather than what was “thematically dramatic” as all the critics seem to want. In other words, quit being such critics. Relax, and enjoy it. All painters and paintings don’t have to fit into your preconceived notions about what is good, and what should be painted. There is room for all types! I mean, isn’t there?

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  • DaneMuhlig

    That is 100% stupid and 100% a lie and 100% anti-Scriptural to say that Jesus is not calling people who say they are one thing and their actions say they are not…they are HYPOCRITES! You have perverted the words of Jesus Christ! Jesus said, “You hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Mt.23:15. He calls people hypocrites for their actions! Jesus said, “You hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Mt.23:25 Hypocrites are so named by their hypocritical actions! And Jesus makes it PERFECTLY clear what a hypocrite is by this, “You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Mt.23:27,28 Hypocrites look righteous on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. They appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. They appear to be a Christian but they are a HYPOCRITE! An ACTOR! They are a hypocrite inside and a hypocrite outside demonstrated by their actions! “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Titus 1:7. Jesus says hypocrites will go to Hell! Mt. 24:51.

  • Mary Anne Post

    I have not read a more honest, and fair, article about Mr. Kinkade’s work. While I did not care for his later art, I loved his heart, as a fellow Christian. This was a wonderful article actually, and I thank you. You pointed out his very real talent, and I can only add, how hard it must have been for him to live with selling himself short artistically. I always wanted to say, when viewing the collections of many friends, ‘a little less light please, Thomas!’ But I never did; they loved his art so. Thank you again.
    Rest in peace dear Thomas, enter ye into the kingdom prepared for you…

  • Robert Orr

    Mr. McDonald, I have read your blog/article several times over the past couple of months. I found your thoughts about hypocrisy to be very helpful. And I am grateful for the kindness you expressed in your closing benediction.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Wendy, you’re a Kincade fangirl, right?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    This picture
    makes sense only as a depiction of an oncoming storm, with heavy smog in some spots and total visibility just inches away (blown by what wind, when the chimney smoke rises undisturbed?), several cordless Klieg lights, possibly a partial eclipse, and that most cheerful of pastoral daydreams: a robust house fire. This is a lovely fantasy in the same way as it makes lovely music when all of your favorite instruments play as loudly as they can at the same time. Listen, and go mad.

    My first impression was that cottage looks like something you’d see on the outskirts of Ponyville, except maybe for the exaggerated lighting and fog effect. In a moment, the door will open and a brightly-colored miniature pony (with a lavender-heart Cutie Mark matching the sign on the lamppost) will trot out to check her mail; if she’s a unicorn, levitating it out of the mailbox with the magic from her horn.

    (Yes, I’m a Brony. 56 years old, male, single, and a major fan of Lauren Faust’s reimagining of an old toy-commercial series which has demonstrated all-ages appeal. I have never seen such an explosion of creativity in a fandom — original art, original fiction, original music compositions, music videos, comic strips, an extended universe.)

    Kinkade’s most successful work was crass and unappealing, but at least he was trying to create something beautiful that evoked a good feeling in people, no matter how badly he went about it. The modern art most praised by the art establishment is nasty, ugly, pointless, dehumanizing garbage with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Crap artists like Tracy Emin are lionized by critics and showered with cash for turning out un-art that shows nothing but contempt for humanity.

    Modern Art (pronounced “AHRT”) is nothing more than a big con game. Where you keep the Mugu pee-his-pants scared he’s going to be denounced as “sentimental” or “nekulturny” or otherwise ostracized by The Other Beautiful People so he keeps shelling out $$$$$$$ for Great Artistic Achievements like lucite-encased turds or crucifixes in urine. Otherwise The Other Beautiful People will shun the mere Commoner — “SHUN! SHUUUUNNNN!”

    The cosmic joke is that, technically, Kinkade’s skills are so far superior to Emin’s that it’s almost comical, but he made the mistake of peddling hope instead of despair, and that’s an unforgivable sin in the post-modern world. If his cozy cottages were splashed with blood and sheathed in condoms, he’d have his own wing in the MOMA by now. And that, not Kinkade’s comforting kitschy fantasies, is the real crime of modern art.

    And “peddling hope instead of despair” is probably a main reason those colorful cartoon ponies made such a splash and gathered such an all-ages following when they appeared in their present form some two years ago. For today is an age of Grinning Nihilism where It’s All Over But The Screaming; have an Appropriate Ironic Quip ready when you leap into the grave and Hell. Just as the year Star Wars first premiered was an age of Grinning Cynicism at the peak of Post-VIETNAAAM Angst. And the year Star Trek first went on the air was three years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Human Extinction from The Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War was 1000% Certain before the year 2000. In all these times of Hopelessness, hope came in the forms of:
    1) A Bright Future among the Stars where We Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before…
    2) A Blaster-blazing Space Opera with Heroes and Villains where THE GOOD GUYS ACTUALLY WON…
    3) Six colorful cartoon ponies cantering in from a land where Friendship (not Nihilism) is Magic.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I heard the reason St Jerome’s bishop tasked him with translating the Bible into Latin was to keep him busy and out of trouble. St Jerome was apparently the type of guy who could walk into a room and antagonize everybody else there in the first minute or two.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    First of all, the fact you think Michelangelo and Kinkade are in the same weight class pretty well diagnoses the problem.

    AKA Kincaid Fanboy Syndrome.

    Michelangelo saw people with those physiques, or dressed in that apparel, and designed his work accordingly. No such things can be observed to inspire the Strontium Cottage.

    “They want light–I’ll give them light. In truckload lots!”

    This is called “masturbating your viewers/readers”. Give them whatever floats their boat, and more. Whether that’s fur and tails on all the characters or Bible Quotes every X pages, an Altar Call Ending, and the unspoken refrain “Just Like You, Dear Reader”.

    Because “An addict has low sales resistance.” — C.S.Lewis

    And “With a ruler, you can lay the flattery on with a trowel.” — Benjamin Disraeli
    – Benjamin Disraeli

  • Sabrina

    Thank you for writing something balanced about the late Thomas Kinkade. I was just stunned at how many people came out of the woodwork to kick his grave as it were. As for me, I enjoyed his work. I realized he was no Rembrandt or Andy Warhol, but then he never intended to be. In fact, had rather strong words about the art establishment which refused to acknowledge him as a fellow artist. Mind, I think his fans and detractors are making the same error: not seeing Thomas Kinkade as he was, as any of us are, a sinner who was in need of God’s love and mercy.

  • TheDutchPainter

    I salute Thomas Kinkade’s Art. May you now enjoy painting the Light and children in Heaven. I am greatly inspired by your Art. You were no Hypocrate but a sensitive intelectual, expressing beauty on canvas with a thorough understanding of MATT 7.1 In the BIble.

  • F.E.

    Sounds like you’re jealous of Thomas Kinkade’s talent or too stupid to know talent when you see it!!

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