Thomas Kinkade died on Good Friday -- the best day to go out, I suppose, since it puts one in the best company. Kinkade is an interesting figure, and, I fear, quite representative of our day. He was an extraordinarily talented artist -- all of his early work is brilliant, and shows him to have been someone who could have been one of the great painters of the day. But he never became one of the great painters of the day because he then spent decades not honing his art but giving people exactly what they wanted (which, unexpectedly, was paintings and prints of impossibly bright and surreally lit cottages) and making large profits from it. Commercially he is perhaps the single most successful painter in history; and he did it by not simply being kitschy, but being an endless torrent of mass-produced kitsch. And he didn't just sell paintings; he sold prints of paintings, slightly painted prints of paintings, factory-made prints of paintings that were touched up by the painting of other artists under Kinkade's direction, etc. Real Kinkade paintings are tens of thousands of dollars; but Kinkade made it so that everyone who wanted could have a sort-of-kind-of-Kinkade almost-painting in their dining rooms at very cheap prices by mail order or through Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery franchises. There's actually something quite ingenious about it; nobody did the business of art, the capitalism of it, better than Kinkade. Very likely nobody ever will. And this must be pointed out, reiterated, and reiterated again: All Kinkade did (and he did it deliberately, and was very explicit about doing it deliberately) was treat his paintings like authors in our society are expected to treat their literary works and like musicians in our society are expected to treat their music.
The best posthumous discussion of this rather controversial man is at "God and the Machine".