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Posted at 12:36 PM ET, 11/30/2010

Thomas Kinkade, 'painter of light,' in legal trouble

By Melissa Bell
Thomas Kinkade
Thomas Kinkade's "Christmas Cottage"

The paintings are instantly recognizable: the light-infused, sugary-sweet idealists images of a fantastical American life hang in shopping mall galleries across the United States. The work of a powerhouse of painting, Thomas Kinkade, the self-appointed "painter of light," these works move people to doling out hundreds of dollars for a painting, or move people to figuratively retching at the affront to art. A 2008 Post article by Rachel Beckman said, "Mocking Thomas Kinkade is perhaps the one activity that brings the art world together."

For Kinkade, life is not imitating art at the moment. Morning Edition reports that the Christian evangelical painter's company is struggling with bankruptcy amid a $3-million settlement owed to gallery owners that claim he defrauded them, and the painter faces a DUI charge in California.

What struck me about the story, though, was this line: "It's estimated a piece of Kinkade's work is in one of every 20 American homes." I think my aunt probably has about six paintings, but really? This man's work hangs in 5,619,314 homes? A 2006 article in the Post claims an even bigger number: roughly 10 million Americans have Kinkade's work. And he's bankrupt? Something is afoot in Kinkade-land.

Calls to his company have not been returned. Read the whole piece from NPR here.

Thomas Kinkade
Thomas Kinkade in 2008

Update: Read Susan Orlean's great 2001 profile on Kinkade, "Art for Everybody." She writes:

He will point out that he has built the largest art-based company in the history of the world, and that ten million people have purchased a Kinkade product, at one of three hundred and fifty Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries that carry his limited-edition prints, or through his Web site, or at one of the five thousand retail outlets that sell Kinkade-licensed products, including cards, puzzles, mugs, blankets, books, La-Z-Boys, accessory pieces, calendars, and night-lights.

Update: An earlier version incorrectly stated Kinkade faced bankruptcy. The Thomas Kinkade Company faces bankruptcy.

(Thanks, Matt!)

By Melissa Bell  | November 30, 2010; 12:36 PM ET
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Comments

I guess his stuff is considered safe enough to go in the National Gallery.

Posted by: mcmantis1 | December 1, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Is it Kinkade or Kinkaid (third paragraph)? Perhaps we could be doling out hundreds of dollars, as opposed to dolling...and it would be an affront, not an afront. Seriously?

Posted by: jld671 | December 1, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Kinkade has not declared bankruptcy. Only the manufacturer that prints some of his works has declared bankruptcy. I hate when 'news' organizations don't do their own investigation, but instead skim thru stories and then try to write something. I'm not defending Kinkade's personal problems, just pointing out that this untruth in the article stating "the Christian evangelical painter is struggling with bankruptcy, a $3-million settlement owed to gallery owners that claim he defrauded them." First of all, he isn't bankrupt, only the franchising company owes the settlement, and the Christian evangelical comment was obviously thrown in there by this writer as a jab which just shows their dislike for that religion. Of course, that is more typical with NPR, but I expected more of Melissa Bell. I'm very disappointed. If she didn't mean that as a jab, maybe she'll take note that it is the way it comes across to readers.

Posted by: EddyKent | December 1, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Christian evangelical painter ...now that is funny!

Posted by: thomasdefeo | December 1, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Can the Post not afford spell-checking software? Really, Melissa---"dolling" out hundreds of dollars?--the "afront" to art?--I think Kinkade's paintings are seriously sappy, but there is no excuse for careless spelling or grammar errors in a major newspaper.

Posted by: bvocal | December 1, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Can the Post not afford spell-checking software? Really, Melissa--"dolling" out hundreds of dollars? The "afront" to art? I think Kinkade's paintings are seriously sappy. But there is no excuse for careless spelling or grammar errors in a major newspaper.

Posted by: bvocal | December 1, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually I heard this story yesterday. My understanting is that the company he created to market his works (in various forms) went bankrupt. This is his company that he owns and operates and distributes all of his work through. Yes, tha company was sued, but it is him. The added description of "Christian evangelical painter" is a description he uses and his religion is very up from in his marketing.

Posted by: robertarosen | December 1, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I am always amazed at the people who make millions of dollars and let it slip through their fingers. They should let my "tight" husband show them the ropes. They would hang on to all of their money and avoid such troubles as these.

Posted by: GaPeech | December 1, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Thomas Kinkade's paintings are an example of true art. People that mock his work are people with heart s like the Grinch's heart (2 sizes too small). Whenever I see his paintings, it relaxes me and makes me feel warm inside. I wish the whole world looked like his paintings.

Posted by: georgana | December 1, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Kinkade's works are the Beanie Babies of the art world. I have never heard him mentioned except as a metaphor for the really worst of any genre. I must say, everyone seems to know him and all his works.To each his own, live and let live and all that. He isn't doing any real harm and he brings happiness to many. I see him as a sort of poor man's Lladro. To paraphrase Mencken, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people."
(This is a really nasty, self-satisfied post and I'm a little ashamed of having written it, but only a little.)
Culture Snob

Posted by: m_richert | December 1, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Kinkade's works are the Beanie Babies of the art world. I have never heard him mentioned except as a metaphor for the really tackiest of any genre. I must say, everyone seems to know him and all his works.To each his own, live and let live and all that. He isn't doing any real harm and he brings happiness to many. I see him as a sort of poor man's Lladro. To paraphrase Mencken, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people."
(This is a really nasty, self-satisfied, mean-spirited post and I'm a little ashamed of having written it, but only a little.)
Culture Snob

Posted by: m_richert | December 1, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't own one of Kinkade's paintings on a bet, but I can't help wondering what is the possible relevance of his being an evangelical Christian. If he were Jewish or Catholic, would you treat that as a relevant fact? If he were Muslim, would you dare mention it? How about race--would you mention it if he were Hispanic or African-American? I'm pretty sure in all these cases you'd regard those identifiers as completely irrelevant to the story and out of bounds. But evangelical Christian--well, no holds barred.

Posted by: Rob_ | December 1, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

The sloppy factual and spelling errors that others have noted in this article are commonplace at today's much-diminished Washington Post.

Some months ago, I was astounded to read an article stating that Aretha Franklin is represented by the "Philip Morris Agency"!

After I left a comment noting how silly this was, a correction was made. But I'm still awaiting a job offer as a fact-checker or copy editor ... LOL.

Posted by: HughBriss | December 2, 2010 5:02 AM | Report abuse

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