Artist Thomas Kinkade, who brought the light and warmth of God to much of his art, died suddenly at his California home April 7. He was 54. Kinkade’s paintings is a grand example of how a Christian can bring a biblical worldview to one’s work for all to see and to the glory of God.
Self-described as “The Painter of Light,“ Kinkade built a multi-million dollar empire off his renderings of light-infused tranquil landscapes that often featured churches and homes. A devout Christian, he once declared himself to be “a warrior for light,” harkening back to the medieval period when artists used light to symbolize the Divine. Bridges and pathways leading through gates highlighted by soft light were often his creation. Some were depictions of Bible verses like his “A Light in the Storm,” taken from Jesus’ words in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world.”
Kinkade also believed in the traditional family and expressed that in his art as well. He married his childhood sweetheart, Nanette, and Kinkade frequently paid her tribute by hiding her name and the names of their four children within his paintings. “Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,” Nanette said in announcing his death.
The art establishment despised Kinkade. Even in death they ridiculed his labor. “I think the reason you probably aren’t going to find his work in many museums, if any, is that there really wasn’t anything very innovative about what he was doing,” said Michael Dalring, chief curator of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, upon learning of Kinkade’s passing. “I really think that he didn’t bring anything new to art.”
The art world’s criticism of Kinkade stemmed from its widespread disbelief in truth, much less God. Kinkade, like the ancient philosophers of art, believed that beauty is an objective standard. Such a view is quite the opposite of today’s relativistic philosophy of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
This is why Kinkade’s contemporaries like Robert Gober can create sculptures shaped as urinals or Robert Ryman can produce canvases that are entirely plain white and their efforts deemed “art.” Why? Because without any objective standards, the creation of art becomes subjective. Thus contemporary art is anything an artist does. “A work of art is whatever an artist says is a work of art,” the director of the Whitney Museum in New York recently stated. Such views explain the widespread arrogance that exists in today’s art world.
Kinkade has been the antithesis of such thought and behavior. According to his website, Kinkade’s paintings have been reproduced as canvas prints, books, calendars, posters, magazine covers, cars, collector plates, figurines and hand-signed lithographs. At one point his company was taking in $32 million a quarter and his paintings often sell anywhere from between hundreds of dollars to $10,000. It is believed that Kinkade raised millions for charities through the auctioning of his works. Not bad for someone who rode boxcars as he honed his skills by sketching the passing landscape.
Kinkade, like us all, fell short at times in his Christian walk. He was once arrested for driving under the influence and once filed for bankruptcy, a case linked to some failed Kinkade Gallery owners. But even with his shortcomings, Kinkade never stopped sharing his God-given ability.
“With whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel,” Kinkade told a reporter in 2002. Indeed he did. Artists, like Kinkade, who apply a biblical worldview to their craft create art that aesthetically testifies to God’s creativity, beauty and truth. We would all do well in following Kinkade’s example in all we do – to the glory of God.