Charles Dickens, in a Preface to The Christmas Carol

“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly.......” Charles Dickens, in a Preface to A Christmas Carol

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thomas Kinkade and Easter Art

Thomas Kinkade, "Cobblestone Christmas"
Thomas Kinkade,  the "Painter of Light," is a polarizing figure.  Some people love him, and some hate him.  How do I know this?  I went to Facebook and typed in Thomas Kinkade.  He brings out strong feelings on both sides. I am neutral about his paintings, but I can appreciate his table top pieces like the "Faith Mountain Story of Christ" and his "Easter Blessings Heirloom Porcelain Egg Tree."  Here is why.....

Thomas Kinkade, "Cobblestone Evening"

According to his own website, Thomas Kinkade has produced over 1000 paintings.  I am unwilling to judge if they are "good" or "bad."  In general, though, I find them too similar in mood, theme, style, and composition to one another.  I acknowledge that Kinkade may demonstrate painterly prowess, but in general, after I look at  the first one or two, they don't hold my attention.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo,
"The Virgin of Seville"

Some people criticize Kinkade because he is too "sweet" or too "kitchy."  Many people said the same about the 17th century Spanish artist Murillo.  Maybe Murillo was sweet.  I don't care.  I think Murillo's paintings are beautiful.  I withhold such regard from Kinkade paintings, not because he is sweet, but because there is no "stretch," so after the first few viewings, everything becomes emotionally flat.

Titian, "Bacchus and Ariadne"

If you think I am insulting Kinkade's work, I'm not.  I'm giving it a shrug.  I am perfectly willing to criticize some art.  For example, I don't like the 15th century Venetian Titian when he paints these huge epic myths.  Generations of art historians have thought that Titian is a great Venetian painter.  But I think there is just wayyyyyy too much going on.  Too many clouds being whipped across the sky.  Too much drapery rippling around in ways that you don't find even in modal dresses.  Too many people in odd poses.  And some epic Titians have too many angels flying around at such precipitous angles. I actively dislike Titian paintings like these.

Jacopo Tintoretto, "Miracle of the Slave"

I have the same dislike of the 16th century Venetian painter Tintoretto.  Wayyyyy too much going on.  Too many bodies at odd angles, seemingly inserted to show off the artist's ability.  Just too hard to focus on the story being told.

Thomas Kinkade, "Christmas Moonlight"

Nope, can't say that about Kinkade.  I just think he has told his same story over and over.

What I really like about Kinkade, however, are his small tabletop pieces.  First, pragmatically, they are compact, tell a story in one fell swoop, and are easy to use.  You put them out for an occasion.  Afterwards, you box them up, plant them in a closet, and you're done.

Thomas Kinkade, "Story of Christ" Illuminated Sculpture,
"Faith Mountain"

Occasionally one of Kinkade's tabletop pieces is a tour de force.  I think the "Story of Christ" Illuminated Sculpture is one of those, and for a Christian, the subject matter is very important. First of all, it is a 3-d depiction with 13 individual scenes and 45 sculpted figures, all hand-painted.  That is pretty impressive, given it is only 15" in height.  Its price tag of $135 seems reasonable to me, given what went into designing  and producing such a detailed piece. Collectors of miniature villages have to appreciate the fact that it is a complete town scene in one piece.

Thomas Kinkade, "Easter Blessings
Heirloom Porcelain Egg Tree"

Kinkade's "Easter Blessing Heirloom Porcelain Egg Tree" is also a wonderful idea.  First of all, it celebrates the traditional art of Easter egg decoration.  It is light and airy and uses traditional pastels, which get you in the mood for spring.  And it remains true to its Kinkade roots, with comforting scenes on porcelain eggs.  Not only that, each scene portrays a "blessing," and you have to be really cynical not to be touched by the ideas of "hope," "serenity," "health," and "wisdom."  You are not allowed to forget Kinkade ever-present commercialism, when the Bradford Exchange urges you to order early, and offers 3 installments. "Free Returns for 365 Days" takes away of bit of the sting, however.

Thomas Kinkade, "Visions of Christ" Music Box

 The Thomas Kinkade "Visions of Christ" Music box is another interesting example of applied art.  In just 7"X4.25"X5.25", Kinkade has developed a series of scenes of the death and resurrection of Christ.  Made of Mahogany, the music box has Kinkade's artwork for "Sunrise" on the underside of the lid, along with a Bible verse, and it plays "Amazing Grace."  That is a very well-conceived commercial piece.

Thomas Kinkade, "Tranquil Mountain Village Tabletop Tree"

Village collectors might also like "Tranquil Mountain Village Tree."  Again, it has an extraordinary series of buildings and over 20 villagers engaged in traditional summer activities like camping and swimming.  There are lakes and streams and waterfalls and trees and flowers, and no emotional appeal for me.  Too much detail saying too little.

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