Sunday, April 8, 2012

Art for the People

The California artist Thomas Kinkade died.  He was only 54 years old.  He was a marketing genius, and his lovely spiritual paintings of cottages and churches and lush nature sold like wildfire (yahoo images right).  He described himself as “a warrior for light,” bringing light to the darkness people feel (AP article by John Marshall, yahoo news).   I can see that in his paintings, and in the related gift items such as cards, calendars, and mugs that he sold in the millions.  I have several of his note cards and a recording of  Christmas songs featuring Kinkade’s art,  rich pastel scenes of snow-covered homes aglow in golden light.     

In fact Kinkade was so successful that other artists hated him.  They disparaged his skill and his success.  But I think they were jealous, because few artists have the ability to market their paintings they way Kincade did.  Some of the best paintings in the world, by artists with natural-born talent, brilliant and sensitive, are sitting in the basements of their creators who can’t bring them to light. 

I also think that Kincade’s “art for the people” filled a great niche for ordinary Americans who wanted peaceful scenes and light-filled paintings in their homes.  What’s wrong with popular art that is accessible and comforting?  Shades of Norman Rockwell.  Some experts might not put such art in an august museum like MOMA or the Toledo Museum of Art, but so what?  Art belongs to everyone, enriches the lives of all of us.  Thomas Kincade’s art will live forever, and the critics be damned.    
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