Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Our Very Own Thomas Kinkade

The photo above is of a Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012) print on a wall of our living room. You are no doubt wondering why it is there and why I'm bothering to write about it.

The reason I'm writing about it is because Kinkade died not long ago, thereby providing a journalistic "hook" for the story of why the print is on our wall.

First, for those not familiar with Kinkade, here is his Wikipedia entry and here is his obituary from The New York Times. The Kinkade organization's site deals with the image here.

Now for the story.

About five years ago my wife and I were staying in Monterey, California. Having checked out of our hotel, I drove up the hill from Cannery Row and then turned left to head through downtown to Highway 1. A block or so later I noticed a large, wooden Victorian style house perched farther up the hill away from the street with its various decorative bits painted in a variety of colors. Near street level was a sign reading "Thomas Kinkade National Archive."

That puzzled me. I knew who Thomas Kinkade was and I knew that the Unites States government has a system of National Archives, but the juxtaposition of his name and archives made no immediate sense. So, spotting an open area along the curb, I parked the car and then we climbed the steps and entered.

As you probably guessed, this "National Archive" was part of Kinkade's vast commercial empire, part sales operation and part gallery. The gallery aspect was interesting in that it contained some original paintings, not just giclée prints. Moreover, not all the paintings featured thatch-roofed cottages with gently glowing windows at twilight. It seems that Kinkade had attended the Art Center College in Pasadena, a top-notch professional school and did a fair amount of plein-air painting with an impressionist touch before and even after he struck gold with his signature style and subject matter. My take at the time was that some of these paintings were pretty good -- I liked them better than his main commercial work -- but they weren't outstanding, either.

Anyway, we toured the "Archive" and before leaving, the young sales guy who was at our heels the entire time mentioned that Kinkade only made one painting in Seattle (we'd told him where we were from). He flipped through one of Kinkade's books and showed it to us. My wife was taken by it because it was a recognizable Seattle scene and ordered a framed print that arrived a few months later.

If you ever visit Seattle you can go to the exact spot where he made the painting. The block at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Pine Street contains two local landmarks one is a hotel called The Inn at the Market (referring to the famous Pike Place Market area down the block). The other is the original store of the Sur La Table kitchenware chain, visible at the right of the painting. If you walk down Pine Street on the right side you will find the entrance to a courtyard leading to the hotel entrance and some shops. Kinkade's spot was two or three yards (metres) out in the street from the courtyard entrance. This put him slightly beyond parked cars, running the risk of being struck by street traffic.

Note one composition error that he could have avoided: a green object to the left of the Public Market sign has its bottom aligning with the West Seattle shoreline in the background.

It's not an image I would have purchased. I'm indifferent to even Kinkade's best work. But since my wife likes it, I'm okay with it.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

thanks for honoring Kinkade. He has been mercilessly panned by most of the art world. However, he touches people (like your wife) and because of him, many people have art in their homes, maybe he's like an entry-level "drug".
I live in Seattle and have even seen this print before..

ps this word verification thing is VERY VERY hard to read.

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors