Runtime: 106 minutes
Director: Miranda Yousef
By Joan Amenn
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of the works of Thomas Kinkade, who is the subject of this documentary by Miranda Yousef. Why am I reviewing it then? Because I am a fan of artists and films that tell their stories so I hoped to gain new insight into someone who I did not appreciate previously. I am so glad I decided to keep an open mind because I found “Art for Everyone” to be surprising in several ways, chiefly in how it inspired me to reconsider Kinkade as an artist.
If you were a child of the 1980’s you may remember that Kinkade’s landscapes seemed to be everywhere but mostly printed on decorative plates meant to be displayed. You might have even purchased one as a gift for your mother, grandmother, or aunt. These were a bit of a fad at the time but were also part of a carefully crafted marketing campaign hatched by Kinkade himself. This blurring of the line between art and commerce is exactly why he is controversial to this day, among other reasons. It’s not a pretty story for someone who created pretty pictures.
It’s not a pretty story for someone who created pretty pictures.
However, Kinkade was wildly successful in his branding of every kind of merchandise imaginable with his images of cottages in garish colors, awash with light that seemed a little too intense to be welcoming. Indeed, he actually trademarked the phrase, “Painter of Light” even though he was not the first to use it. That would be J.M.W. Turner, a British artist who embraced Romanticism in his paintings. If you were to Google the works of both Turner and Kinkade and compare them side by side, it would be obvious who was the greater talent.
. If you were to Google the works of both Turner and Kinkade and compare them side by side, it would be obvious who was the greater talent.
There are many secrets about Kinkade that his family felt obligated to keep when he was alive that have since been revealed such as his spiraling out of control alcoholism that ultimately claimed his life. What has not been discussed that Yousef tantalizingly reveals to the viewer of this film is the contents of the vault which held Kinkade’s work. His family was aware that he kept the original paintings from which his ubiquitous prints and merchandise were derived locked up in this location. What they didn’t know was the massive collection of works that he did not want to be seen, at least not when he was alive. These are shocking in how different they are from what has been widely known as the Thomas Kinkade style and many of them are quite good.
Who knew Kinkade could be not only a passable Impressionist but also delve into modern and even post-modern styles of painting? Sadly, we only get glimpses of these long-hidden treasures and it is to be hoped that perhaps a gallery showing will be arranged sometime in the future to reclaim Kinkade’s badly tarnished legacy. It may be that the audience who embraced Kinkade for the images he created in the 1980’s will not accept these new to the public works. On the other hand, they may also build him a new appreciation among those who he shunned and yet privately, whose opinions he coveted: art critics. Kinkade was ultimately a fatally flawed character who lost his way as an artist once he embraced the commercialism of being sold out on QVC. His is a cautionary tale of talent squandered that is just waiting for a second chapter that tells of his redemption as an artist. I hope he gets it.