The Anchoress, a blogger who should know better, has her knickers in a knot about the sentimental painter Thomas Kincade.

Kincade made a bundle marketing kitschy sentimental paintings to a niche market of Evangelical Christians who were ignored by the artistic community. And now, horror of horrors, it seems he was picked up for DUI. Quick, a Christian who might have been drunk! Let’s all throw some stones!

Well, I’ll await the blood alcohol level and medication history before I throw a stone, but what is behind the fuss? Artists are supposed to mirror the beauty of the deity’s creation, but few are saints. Indeed, if we Catholics threw out all the art and music created by drunks, addicts, adulterers and gays, we’d have blank walls and have to go back to Gregorian chant.

But Kincaid is despised not because he is a “bad” or “old fashioned” painter, but because the working class American, especially those who are Evangelical Christians, who buy his paintins are despised, and ridiculing Kincaid is merely a way to ridicule the hoi polloi.

JoeCarter over on the FirstThings blog is especially snide, not only dismissing Kincaid’s art for it’s sentimentality but for not being multicultural:

What the artist fails to understand is that Vietnamese-Americans (as well as African-, Mexican-, Chinese-, and other hyphenated Americans) probably do not share the Anglo-American cottage fantasy. And his cottage scenes are precisely that: fantasies.

He’s only partly right. Compare and contrast:
Thomas Kincaid:

Amorsolo’s famous Philippine paintings:

No, personally I can’t stand Kincaid (his paintings use cool colors and are cluttered). But my husband has Amosolo’s paintings all over the wall, both here in the Philippines and when we still lived in the US.

Both Kincaid and Amosolo are dismissed by art critics, but my point is that they are both sentimental–and popular.

Both posit a world where “all the women are strong, the men are handsome and the children better than average” (i.e. the Lake Wobegon effect).

So people put these paintings on their wall to remind them of a time when happy families were living in a world with no pollution, no poverty, no hunger, no pain, no suffering, and no struggle to make a living and keep the family safe.

True, those days never really existed, but never mind. Because the paintings are not about Victorian cottages, but about heaven.

Catholics have 2000 years of great art, but Evangelicals, with a bias against icons and idols, do not. Kincaid’s sentimental paintings replace this, with a picture of a cottage representing not the past as much as the future, a heaven where there is no pain, no hardship, and God himself will wipe our tears away.

This is what Carter gets wrong, when he despises them as “fantasies”:

 …Adults hang paintings of Kinkade’s paintings of cottages in their living room for the same reason that little girls put posters of unicorns and rainbows on their bedroom walls. It is a pseudo-referential nostalgia, a longing for what does not exist in reality but exists in the fantasy realm of possibility.

Ah, true. But why do you feel that fantasy is wrong?

Which brings us to Tolkien, who writes about the human need for fantasy in his famous essay “On Fairy Stories”.

Professor Olson (“the Tolkien Professor“) sums up Tolkien’s dismissal of his critics who dislike fantasy thus:

Tolkien maintains (that) critics of Fantasy are confusing “the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter” .
Critics would imply, without explanation or justification, that any escape from the world around us is necessarily shameful, and Tolkien resists that thinking strenuously, even going so far as to compare that line of thinking to .. totalitarian state(s) that considers departure from or even criticism of it treachery.

So at a time when art museums are constantly foisting ugly modern art and other garbage (often literally garbage) as “art” and using taxpayer funding to do so, maybe we should cut some slack for those who are despised by the talented, and allow them their kitsch and sentimental pictures.

Kincaid will have to do, until a real talent comes along.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines.

She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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