Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Art and Beauty Tuesday--Thomas Kinkade and Rembrandt Van Rijn

As a bit of an art blogger, I thought it my duty to point out a very thought-provoking article by Simcha Fisher called What is So Bad About Thomas Kinkade?

Kinkade, who calls himself the "painter of light", is a very popular artist in the United States. I have a copy of one of his paintings in my living room.

His work is very idealized; all the flowers are blooming, objects are inexplicably glowing, water is sparkling, and tiny cottages ablaze with light await our habitation. His world is perfect.

His w o r l d is perfect.

That is exactly what is wrong with Thomas Kinkade according to Fisher. The world, as God created it, is not beautiful enough.  It needs impossible idealization.  It needs to be "made-up" like an unnaturally skinny model with weirdly puffed up lips.

Another disturbing thing is the lack of light source in his paintings. A commenter on Fisher's blog said that he or she thought of Christian iconography when seeing Kinkade's work. Fisher points out, however, that they are quite different.

In Christian iconography, there is often a fierce interplay of light and darkness, showing that God is the true source of Light. In Kinkade's work, the world seems to be light itself with no source of light discernible .

While mesmerizing, this type of painting leaves us disappointed when we realize that life is not like that. Kinkade's paintings are worldly in an inverted sort of way. We are immersed in this impossible world with nothing that points us to the Source of its beauty. Kinkade's paintings are a kind of addictive escape that tell no story of their own.

In Rembrandt's Adoration of the Shepherds, on the other hand, the entire story is told through the light source. Light emanates from the newly born Christ Child while the surrounding area is filled with contrasting darkness.

The story here is immediate and obvious, told with genius and artistic uniqueness.

A story is told when beauty is allowed to be contrasted with everyday "ugliness".  Kinkade does not allow this. In his world, everything must be perfect.  Fisher likened this to a child's beauty pageant.  The inner beauty of a child is not good enough.  She must be painted and curled to impossible perfection until she is unrecognizable.

The world was created as a beautiful blend of the joyous and the sorrowful.  Good art is technically talented but it is more than that.  Good art tells a story, as good literature does, through the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness, joy and sorrow, light and darkness.

That is the crux of the Christian story and we would do well to remember and celebrate it.  Keeping ourselves amassed in impossible standards of worldly perfection only brings disappointment when we wake up and realize that it is not to be.

This is the source of much of our sorrow today.  We want physical, relational, financial and entertainment perfection, often chasing it to the detriment of the fellow humans we have been put with on this earth.  We want it all now.  We must have perfect fulfillment.

Christianity, like life, is not this escape from reality.  It is reality as it was created and redeemed by God.  The world, from Catholicism's point of view, is very "sacramental"--it is a means by which God gives us His grace and reveals Himself  to us.  To take away the everyday, to take away the darkness, is to do God a disservice.

Good art, music and literature conveys this by showing the world in all its glory--not as an over-idealized, cookie-cutter, tv-generation view of reality that must be impossibly air-brushed-perfect to be appreciated.

8 comments:

Michele said...

you really have a beautiful way of expressing things into life. you're very talented my friend. be it poetry, art, or a post. God bless you!

Dymphna said...

Thanks so much, Michele!!

Barbara Schoeneberger said...

This is one of your best art posts, Dymphna. Kincaide takes me into a world of fantasy I can't inhabit for long. That so many people are attracted to his work tells me that people are longing for perfection in this world. If they would only turn to Christ they would find the true God they are unknowingly seeking in what is a sugar-coated image of Him.

Dymphna said...

I think you are right. People are longing for this world to be perfect and divine when it is the creation and not the Creator.

Taite Hartley said...

Very good post. We're studying Christian art and critiquing Jackson Pollock and Thomas Kinkaide in particular.

Dymphna said...

I can't imagine 2 more disparate artists!

romeo said...

I have no idea of art as such and this is the first time I glimpsed at this art. I think by looking at this you forget the ugliness of this world for an instance and you get a shine of beauty within. Ugliness is all around us all the time why do we have to express it even in art?

Dymphna said...

That is a good point, Romeo. It does seem to transport us to a world that doesn't exist this side of heaven anyway.

Dymphna's favorite quotes


"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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