Thomas Kinkade, the self-described painter of light has passed away at the age of 54. Kinkade played an important role for art in the 21st century through his imagery and messages and was loved and celebrated by millions all over the World.
You may be wondering what this has to do with LinkedIn? Well, nothing really – but if you choose to follow and collaborate with me you will learn that I had the pleasure of working for Park West Gallery for 8 years and had the privilege of selling art that ranged from $50 serigraphs to $750,000 paintings or prints by art legends such as Picasso, Chagall, Dali, Miro, Rembrandt and more. Art has shaped me personally and professionally and is part of the journey to where I am today as an Entrepreneur, Wife, Mother – and now blogger on my website Leverage LinkedIn Now.
Like many influential and important Artists, Kinkade was controversial. The so-called art establishment did not accept him and highly criticized his work. Many art scholars deemed him irrelevant – yet ironically he was collected by millions! Kinkade wasn’t famous for ground breaking paintings like Guernica or Les Desmoiselle D’Avginon by Picasso, and his art did not permanently hang in the MOMA or the Louvre. Kinkade never pushed the envelope the way modern art has since artists like Warhol or introduced a new concept or medium to the art world. Maybe he didn’t fit into the definitions and stereotypes that “high-class” society artists, art critics and art professionals have created – but, love him or hate him, he did more for art in terms of appreciation and message than many of our living modern artists.
Kinkade and Picasso did have something in common – they were both highly prolific. And by that I mean they both had the incredible ability to reproduce their art a thousand times over so many people could enjoy their work. This was arguably the secret sauce for Kinkade. Because of his incredible marketing & production teams, he was able to take the images he painted and duplicate them over and over again – and not just in lithographs, but in calendars, puzzles, mugs, quilts and so much more. Kinkade turned his inspirational imagery into a multi-million dollar empire. As a result, Kinkade’s art is in the homes of millions.
As a History major, I feel compelled to state that art is one of the oldest forms of human traditions. Paintings by “cavemen” can be found on the walls of caves in Spain that date back thousands and thousands of years. But fast forward to 2012 and art is not as “mainstream” as other artistic mediums. Art has been expanded into more than just colors and lines on paper or a copper plate (as it was during Rembrandt’s time). The invention of the camera, among other important technological introductions, have transformed what art can be interpreted as. As such, the simple pleasure of an image on paper is not as celebrated or appreciated as it once was and as a society we do not have a general knowledge or collective consciousness on traditional art. For example, if I play you songs from a cross section of musical genres right now, would you be able to identify them? Chances are that you can tell the difference between classical, pop, rap, latin and others. You don’t need a music degree to know the difference. The same is true for film. If I showed you clips from various movies, could you tell me what category of movie that is? I would venture to say you could identify if it is a horror movie, a drama or a romantic comedy, right? And once again, you don’t need a degree in film to know the difference. But if I put various styles of paintings in front of you from important artists of history – could you tell the difference? Most of us cannot. Why? Because art, in general, is not mainstream today. Where is the American Idol for Artists? Where is the Academy Awards for painting? I am sure they exist in elite art circles, but it is certainly not shared on primetime “mainstream” media like TV.
However, Kinkade made art mainstream and brought the joy of collecting to everyday people. Art, like music and film, is supposed to move us and be an expression of our deepest self. I know many art enthusiasts that are moved to a deep emotional reaction when they see a painting or an image that connects with them. Some might think that is strange, right? But is it? We cry, laugh and react to music and movies….why don’t we have the same reaction for art? In my opinion, Kinkade inspired that dialogue for all of us again. Through his sentimental paintings, with their scenes of country gardens and churches in dewy morning light he managed to speak to everyday people in ways that traditional art outlets could not.
When I worked for Park West, I would train Auctioneers who sold art on cruise ships. I would consistently advise that Kinkade was the most important artist in their collections of 800-1000 works of art on board. Why? Because cruisers don’t typically go on board a cruise ship for their vacation to buy art! So if Art Directors and Art Auctioneers wanted to attract cruise ship guests to their events they better use an artist in their collection that everyone knew….that was Kinkade. Most people don’t wake up on a Saturday morning and say, “Honey, let’s buy art today!” But as you go about your day to day routine, you might stop and see a Kinkade Gallery in your local mall or see his images in a book store. The nostalgic, Norman Rockwell type-feel will draw you in and make an art lover and collector out of you! And so your love affair with art begins. That is truly the power of a Kinkade.
In essence, if there is one powerful legacy that I clearly see that Kinkade has left behind it is this:
Thomas Kinkade’s light shined through his art and into the homes of millions of people who may never have known, appreciated or felt an emotional connection to art in their lives. Thomas Kinkade made art relevant for so many people. He reminded us that art can be emotional and represent an expression of ourselves as individuals and as a collective society. Art is pure, art is honest and art is an important human tradition that should not just be reserved for museums and galleries – but should be part of our everyday lives and traditions.
Thank you Thomas Kinkade for shining your light and sharing your messages of love and faith. Your art holds an important place in history and will not only be featured in public spaces, but more importantly, will live on in the homes and hearts of all the collectors and their families for generations to come. Your work was a light for art and a light for all.