thomas kinkade, RIP


As Kinkade himself said, light is optimism — and optimism is always a mix of hope and fantasy, of the natural and supernatural. A thatched-roof house in a grove that recalls a memory of a perfectly nameless country town is also reminiscent of a hobbit house from The Lord of the Rings. A young deer standing in a flowerbed by a stream looks to an impossible rainbow that juts from a cliff and the deer also happens to be Bambi. This kind of unapologetically sincere optimism is an easy target. There is something undeniably childish — even ludicrous — about hope. For this reason, just as the light in Kinkade’s paintings is a light of hope and joy, his paintings are melancholy, too. At the Fashion Show Mall last year, I was reminded of something Robert Walser once wrote about the easy delights of Berlin’s Tiergarten. It was like a painted picture, he wrote, “then like a dream, then like a circuitous, agreeable kiss. …[O]ne is lightly, comprehensibly enticed to gaze and linger.” “A Circuitous, Agreeable Kiss” might be the name for any one of Thomas Kinkade’s paintings, for this title conveys well the sense of longing and melancholy that stimulates both Kinkade’s fans and critics. Thomas Kinkade has often been likened to Norman Rockwell — that other American populist who painted scenes of a happier America that existed in a bygone age. Like Rockwell, some have said, Kinkade attracted Americans not so much with hope but rather with nostalgia, the sweet sorrow of loss. Yet Kinkade’s paintings are not nostalgic; they are simply unreal. If anything, they depict an America that has never existed, and will never exist. It is the fantasy that makes them so attractive.

more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.