thomas kinkade controversyI have been reading lots of harsh comments and criticism about the art of the late Thomas Kinkade, debasing his paintings. Some of these remarks were cruel and hateful, both questioning the authority of Thomas Kinkade as an artist and questioning the sanity of anyone who would buy his paintings or reproductions.

According to his website, Thomas Kinkade is the biggest selling artist of all time, selling more than any artist dead or alive. His paintings can be seen on prints, mugs, nightlights, little trinkets, and much more.


He is known for being just as much a business man as an artist (is that a bad thing?) He has also been harshly criticised by the art world establishment, especially for his commercialism.

I recently read a post on by Alan Bamberger entitled Art, Artists, Bigotry, Hate… and the Passing of Thomas Kinkade. He has really let his opinion become known about what he thinks of people lashing out on Thomas Kinkade’s artwork since his demise.

Being owner of a site such as Artpromotivate which features visual artists of all backgrounds and tastes, it certainly would not pay to be judgemental of a particular artists work. What artists create is up to them, whether they want to create the same picture a zillion times over, or make millions from one painting. Who am I to judge one artist over another – or to make up my own definition of what I think is true art?


What is it about Thomas Kinkade’s paintings that so many people like and made him so popular?


In answering this question, I browsed through some of the comments at a few forums and will give a few common points.

  1. His art is comforting

    Create your own Website!There are millions who have found joy looking at Thomas Kinkade’s paintings. Lets face it, most people aren’t likely to buy an artwork if they are not in some way comforted by it. Many who have experienced struggles in life want to be surrounded by positive things which cheer them up. Thomas Kinkade’s work did that for many people.

  2. Has a personal connection

    Most people seem to be reminded of the place they grew up or a place they would like to be.

  3. Idyllic

    He painted scenes that were very idealized, and what people wanted things to be like. He was a perfectionist, making his scenes full of highlights, color, and detail.

  4. Family safe

    By this I mean his art had themes that were ok for the whole family, and most people wouldn’t mind hanging in their living-room.

The reality is that when the common person wants to buy a painting, they buy it because it comforts them and they see something in the piece they can identify with. Thomas Kinkade touched on both these aspects. 



I believe that this is what the vast majority want. My parents and most people I know around here would rather buy a Thomas Kinkade painting than my own. Should I be jealous? Should I lash out at my family and friends and question their taste? Should I change my own artwork to suit them? Certainly not! I am not a judgemental person and I do understand WHY they like it. It’s not about the name by the way (well, partly).

television remoteI know many who are not even familiar with art, or even want to understand it. They work all day at labour intensive jobs, come home after a long days work, rest, and prepare for the next day of work. They usually relax in front of a TV watching their favourite television shows, or on their computer.




When leaving work, most people want to forget about the workplace. They find comfort in pass-times that make them forget about their workplace and relax their mind. They want their homes to feel like homes. They surround their households with photographs of loved ones, personal mementos, and artwork that they have a personal connection to, and which comforts them. I know this because most people in this small town love Thomas Kinkade’s paintings and have them in their homes.

I could easily paint similar scenes myself to cater to the buying public (as a side project to my usual paintings), but I choose not to. The reason being, I fear I would become known for these – since more would be buying them. I do see some local artists doing just that and selling lots.


What do you think of the work of Thomas Kinkade? Why do you think people like it? Do you think all the controversy over his artwork is unfair or justified?

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  1. This is a perfect example fo how the art world has become consumed by fascism.Kincade's work is technically great.The subject matter is inoffensive.Some like it ,some don't,like any other piece of art.We are being manipulated and told what to think.Why does an installation consisting of three basketballs in an aquarium deserve a place in a prestegious gallery and an artist like Kincade gets bashed?I am so over this world and it's boring fascist tendencies.I'm just waiting for the bus.Until it gets here,I will keep painting and making (some)people happy with it.Good luck.

  2. I think people like his work because it has a sense of familiarity to it. comfort is a good word. we are challenged every day in so many ways that an image that allows the viewer to enter and not be assaulted is safe. There is nothing confusing in his paintings no allegorical references or anxiety.
    There is also a special light that emanates from his work which is another thing that people appreciate. Even I do like that about them. so many painters do not seem to be able to capture the effect of light in their paintings.
    sometimes I have seen that there are even little electric lights behind some of the prints but this is not to my taste.
    Lastly do not forget that as a Christian he was trying to portray that the source of that light is God. This was written up in several Christian publications with him being referred to as the painter of light.
    prolific, productive, popular, and presumably wealthy. I would guess most artists aspire to be these things but perhaps with reservations.

  3. To paint the light was Kinkaid's mission. One day his mentor had a thought and told him to paint the light. He looks for the light in each of his paintings and paints it. It doesn't mean your painting might have better light. He is truly the painter of light.
    He also puts his wife's initial in each of his paintings. If you have a painting see how many N's you can find. Some paintings have 10-12.

    Is his marketing a bad thing? How would any artist sell without any marketing?

  4. Many years ago, when I first applied for admission to a small art college, I sat in a room with the director while he looked through my portfolio in silence. When he was finished, he closed the folder and said, "Your work is very illustrative." I could feel the flush of embarrassment and managed to stammer something about wanting to learn how to create real art. He smiled and said that llustrative art was not a bad thing, especially when it came from the soul. Where did I get such an idea? It came from elitism in the art world, from those who knew nothing about creating art but donated money so they could wear artistic clothing and sip wine at gallery openings. This is not bitterness speaking, just a truthful observation of how the business of art functioned in my world. Perhaps it has changed now - I hope so. Thomas Kincaid created highly detailed paintings that shine with light and offered his vision to everyone. The fact that his work speaks to so many and is available on coffee cups is not evidence of his failure to be a 'real artist'. It is evidence that business saw an opportunity for profit and a marriage was made. How very fortunate for Thomas Kincaid and for his admirers! There will always be jealousy in the face of success. Why do we create art in the first place? What are we trying to convey? Is it 'readable' and does it touch people or is it purely intraspective and enigmatic? There is no right or wrong when it comes to the creation of art but there is definitely right or wrong when it comes to the folly of elevating oneself above another in a fit of envy. Those who have done so with the work of Thomas Kincaid need to put down the wine glass and examine their motives.

  5. I agree that Kincaid had every right to market himself to the hilt, which he did.
    I don't agree that it is Fine Art. I feel that it is Illustrative art and has a greeting card quality.
    Art is not meant to just comfort people but to make them think and and possibly change their attitudes. As an Artist I feel we should challenge ourselves and step out of the box and our comfort zones. Our Art can still be beautiful or ugly, challenging or serene. My point is that you need to handle your Art business but not to the point where you are so commercial that you forget your personal muse. Love what you do and others will be drawn to it. This Art site where artists can share their ideas and support each other is a great idea, congratulations.

  6. I bought a canvas reprint of Kincade's art at a time in my life when I'd been through some hard times. I was eager to come out of the darkness and wanted to be surrounded by light. His painting was a comfort. I also paid a good price for it. I became disappointed in him when I saw how commercial he was becoming. I don't know if my painting held its value or not. His artwork became "trashy" by appearing on cups from Japan, and on calendars and trinkets. I still have his painting hanging. It still brings an aura of light and peace into my room.

  7. Well, sadly, even artists can be haters. I took some classes at a local college and some of the art students were complaining about Kincade. I brought up Van Gogh. A man who suffered, painted and tried to sell his art and it only sold after he died. Since he traded his paintings for food/supplies etc, I'm going to take a chance of being hated here and say, I bet he would have LOVED to be considered "too commercial" in his day. Heck...aren't his paintings in and on calenders/cards/posters/stickers etc. today? Seems a double standard. As "artists" we are supposed to paint with our emotions, and to put ourselves in our work. I guess that means we are not to paint an item that goes with someone's home or to commission work that is to be made into a poster etc. It's bull. If you are only painting to prove you are a suffering artist...keep it to yourself then. If you are painting to attempt to make a living from it as well....when your competition are not just artists with paint and brush, but photos manipulated from computers, but scanned old items reprinted onto vintage papers and more...GO FOR IT. If your work sells, REJOICE, if it becomes so popular that people in a small town in India know your name....WOOHOO, isn't that one of the reasons you paint and try to sell your art? To become KNOWN? To share with people YOUR vision, YOUR style, YOUR views of the world?
    Art has always been personal to the buyer/customer. The old phrase, " I'll know it when I see it" is heard often in Galleries, stores, anywhere art is for sale. (as well as other things people buy) Obviously Kincade was cherished for many reasons and a LOT of people "knew it when they saw it." I'm so tired of haters of people, politics, sexual preference ...I would hope that artists, who tend to know first hand, the difficulties of choosing art as a career, would be a tad less judgemental about another artist actually SELLING his artwork and living on the income...but, that is not quite to be. However, I am all for it. I don't claim to be an incredible artist, but I do sell quite a few things...and being a single mother who was disabled by a horrible car accident..I'm here to say, if something I painted/created went wild and was so popular it was mass produced on all kinds of products...I'd not only be thrilled, I'd be able to afford to get my hair done and support my daughter with ease.

  8. @Carol Allen Anfinsen If the painting brings you pleasure, I wouldn't worry about where his art appears. One can buy cheap coffee mugs and trinkets galore featuring the work of Klee, Van Gogh, Monet and many others. One big difference is that Kincaid lived to see the profits while the others did not.

  9. The only people who would belittle what Kinkade accomplished are those who are jealous. He was extrememly talented and a top-notch businessman. If art critics can't deal with that, they only show their true colors, a severe lack of taste, and even more a lack of concern for the art-buying public, favoring instead a snobby, know-it-all self-righteous stance that few would find to be a favorable trait in anyone. Kinkade=beauty, critics=JUST PLAIN WRONG.

  10. Thanks everyone for commenting on this post.. it is very much appreciated! ... and thanks for understanding my point of view on Thomas Kinkaid. I never did say whether I liked his work or disliked it. What I don't like is the belittling of an artist just because of his success. There is nothing wrong with commercial success for those who seek it.. and there is nothing wrong with painting what the public want. This is exactly what Thomas Kinkaid did and I congratulate him for it. Its not what I have been doing but I may have to start thinking of some ways I can paint for others, rather than just for myself.

  11. I appreciate the comments and controversy brought forth by the author of this site, Graham Matthews. Being from Placerville, CA, where Kinkade grew up and graduated from high school in El Dorado County, his life and paintings have always been a topic of interest for many of us, even long before his premature death. I personally took students to hear him speak in the early 90s and he was such a gracious, humble speaker, giving God the credit for all of his talent, as he told of his love of family and early adventures traveling across the country with his buddy in order to submit their art work in New York. He talked about drawings being destroyed as they slept under bridges and how they finally achieved their goal and were hired to paint background landscape for videos. He delivered a very encouraging and uplifting story of success to a group of young people. However, many local talents have long been critical of his achievements and how he 'commercialized' his work, selling signed copies, putting images on all sorts of items, such as calendars, etc. But as was mentioned already on this site, this has been done by many famous artists, just not usually while they're still alive. Some people may not know that for several years, Kinkade held annual events at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, where he sold prints and other items and personally came to speak to each person who lined up and waited to have their purchase signed. He donated a portion of sales each year to different local charities. And I was one of those people who would often attend. I have one print that I purchased of Morgan Hill that he personally signed on the glass in gold ink and told me that his daughter and I shared the same name. In my opinion, it was difficult not to like this man and difficult not to appreciate his talent, even though in later years, we read about his many difficulties in life. Therefore, I'd like to add, that I have to agree with Mr. Matthews, I don't believe that Thomas Kinkade deserves the belittling that has taken place, especially since his death. He was successful and apparently with his success came many challenges as well. I wish people would just let him rest in peace now and withhold all of the critical judgement.

  12. @Anonymous Thank-you for that very well-written comment! I agree.. I don't think he deserves the belittling.. he did make a positive impact on many people's lives.. more-so than Damien Hirst....

  13. Great article and great comments. Whatever happened to Freedom of Speech? We should be allowed to paint what we want to paint, but there is always a critic out there be they positive or negative...I've started putting my artwork on some products recently with Society6. For one thing I quite like to see my work on other stuff. It also makes me smile when other people like it and buy it too ;-)

  14. Kinkade had lots of painting skills, painted safe subject matter, was fairly prolific and most of all knew how to market. He was a good business man and was not concerned about how much he marketed. And maybe he got lucky, too. While his style is not one I would pursue, and I'm not interested in buying his art, we all could learn more about the business end of art. That is if a lot of money is the prime aim. To each his own!

  15. In the mid 1990's 94, one of my most prolific years painting landscapes, cottages, bridges, arches and I had not even heard of Thomas Kinkade. In a small rural town, we had one art group and a couple of juried shows in the summer. There was a frameshop in this town and I was blessed to show my artworks there in their lobby. I sold many paintings, thanks to their willingness to support local artists. About six months later, I received a notice from them, that they needed the exhibit space to sell Thomas Kinkade's prints, rather large and that I wouldn't be able to show my works there anymore. Jealous is one word to describe a disappointment. 1998, while on the road in New York City and New Jersey, I was interviewed for a gallery walk expose in Jersey City, in a nice article, featuring one of my paintings called Path Light, the author of the article compared my work with Thomas Kinkade. Now, trends in art are always going to exist and he that makes the gold makes the rules...LOL. I had some reservations about the commercialism that I felt pushed aside over. I was painting in that genre, before I ever heard of Mr. Kinkade. When I would knock on gift shops and local venues doors, to inquire about opportunities to exhibit paintings for sale, and saw so many were no longer interested in their local artists and had become distributors of Thomas Kinkade. It was a trend and so is an economy that seems to have nullified, making your way as an artist, surviving from your creative pursuits nearly impossible. Scented candles and Thomas Kinkade paintings, trends. I stopped painting in a style that might make it look like I followed Kinkade. I didn't stop loving to paint. Landscapes and romantic vistas, it just didn't sit right with me to go on with work that might be considered less than original, or be in the shadow of a giant., 2012, From 1998


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