Vincent van Gogh was one of the most wonderful artists who ever lived, and yet during his lifetime not one of his paintings sold. He died thinking he was a failure, but, in March of 1990, van Gogh's masterpiece Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $144 million dollars. Van Gogh would have been speechless. On the other hand, the late Thomas Kinkade sold so many paintings during his lifetime, he had outlets in malls in order for people to purchase his work. I am not a fan of Thomas Kinkade's style. It has often been referred to as kitsch, or illustration rather than art. There is no doubt Thomas Kinkade was a talented painter, but his art is too sentimental for my taste. It's sort of like that big stick of cotton candy we buy at the fair. The first bite is so sweet we are inclined to throw the rest into the waste paper basket. But we keep eating it because, well, sugar tastes good.
And so, we keep gazing at the overly-idealized paintings of Thomas Kinkade, thinking how peaceful it would be to live in one of his cabins by a lake. I live in the city, and in the summertime the noise starts to get to me. Last night my upstairs neighbour was having her decks power washed at 7:30 at night. Who power washes their decks on a Friday night? It went on for three hours, and power washers are right up there with jack hammers for noise decibels. I told my friend Russell I would love nothing better than to be living in a Thomas Kinkade cabin beside a river, just for a little while. Oh, the tranquility. And that is the problem with a Kinkade painting. There is no edge, no yin and yang, no tangy and sweet. They're all just sugar. And, like the cotton candy, too much sugar can become nauseating very quickly.
I was surprised to come across this painting by Thomas Kinkade. It is a work in progress, and it is Graceland, Elvis Presley's home in Memphis. Except for the blazing inferno inside the house, it doesn't look like a Thomas Kinkade painting at all, but more like an Edward Hopper. The lines are clean, the light and shadow on the lawn is dramatic and not overly sentimental. Kinkade has done other paintings of Graceland, and they look like Christmas card covers, but there is something about this painting that has an edge to it. It evokes the feeling of the abandoned, haunted house that comes alive once a year and the ghosts inside are celebrating with a night of merry-making. Perhaps Elvis and his Memphis Mafia are entertaining their friends. Tomorrow the windows will go dark again, and the house will sleep. I haven't seen the finished product of this work in progress, but I hope Kinkade stopped here. To me, this painting shows that he actually was a talented painter. He passed away too soon, and it might have been interesting to see if the *painter of light* had a dark side. Those paintings might have been his masterpieces.