The death of Thomas Kinkade – America’s mass-producing, best-selling painter – has been surrounded by intrigue. From initial reports of a natural death, the story quickly took a darker turn with allegations that Kinkade died in an all-night alcohol binge. Then those close to him suggested that it was his critics that drove him to drink and his ultimate demise. And, just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, there a new twist in the tale.
This new development comes in the form of Kinkade’s wife (from whom he had separated) filing for a restraining order against the artist’s new girlfriend – Amy Pinto-Walsh – in an effort to stop her from revealing any sensitive information. Pinto-Walsh was apparently with Kinkade when he died, and was the one who called 911. She had been his girlfriend for 18 months, and is still living at his estate.
The desired restraining order would prevent Pinto-Walsh from making any statements concerning Kinkade, his wife or any of his companies. This is motivated allegedly by a desire to keep trade secrets under wraps. It claims that she would have had access to confidential information regarding Thomas Kinkade Studios’ techniques, including paint type, brush techniques and the use of computer technology. But the whole scenario is thoroughly suspicious; not only is there no official cause of death, but it has just been revealed that he in fact died on April 5, not April 6 as previously reported.
Disgracefully saccharine perhaps, but that didn’t stop Thomas Kinkade from becoming America’s best-selling artist, with his mass-produced paintings/prints fetching some $100 million a year, and thought to be in 10 million homes across the United States – that’s one in every 20 American home! The cost of his paintings range from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000, and could be purchased from malls and the shopping channel QVC.
Kinkade’s sentimental paintings were and will remain to be a monumental hit with what American journalists are calling the ‘middlebrow’. According to his website, Kinkade ‘painted over 1,000 masterworks covering topics that include, cabin and nature scenes, beautiful gardens, classic cottages, sports, inspirational content, lighthouses and powerful seascapes, impressionists, and classic Americana.’ He rejected the ‘intellectual isolation of the artist’, it adds, choosing instead to make ‘each of his works an intimate statement that resonates in the personal lives of his viewers.’
In the artist’s own words; ‘With whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel.’ ‘I share something in common with Norman Rockwell and, for that matter, with Walt Disney’, he added, ‘In that I really like to make people happy.’
His business partner Ken Raasch, has been singing his praises: ‘I’d see a tree as being green and he would see it as 47 different shades of green’; ‘He just saw the world in a much more detailed way than anyone I’ve ever seen’. But this somewhat misses the point. Kinkade was not a good artist in the classical sense of the word, whose success derived from his supreme insight, no. But he was phenomenally good at what he did, speaking the language of ordinary people and making a buck or two in the process.
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