Rockwell vs. KinkadeRecently a fellow artist had the audacity to mention together the work of the much-touted Californian hack, Thomas Kinkade ("the" painter of light), and the venerable artist/illustrator, Norman Rockwell, both disparagingly. His exact words were "sentimental crap". My blood pressure went up ten points and my voice about ten decibels as I exploded:
"How dare you mention Kinkade and Rockwell in the same sentence! That is an extremely superficial view of the latter's classic illustrations and serious social/historical commentary on the eras in which he lived and worked. Kinkade is a living artist and responsible for how his work is marketed. Rockwell is neither. Rockwell stands head and shoulders above Kinkade and may well be listed in the history books as one of a handful of truly great artists of this century. Kinkade's over-hyped, syrupy-sweet, little landscapes are purely decorative in the worst sense of the word."
Rockwell's work, like the artist, is admittedly not difficult to understand. He should be applauded for capturing so simply what other artists of his time chose to ignore, or couldn't comprehend in the first place. He and his work is reflective of his life, times, and history to the same degree as many other great artists down through the ages. It's just that some of the decades which he has depicted have come to seem anachronistic and sentimental to us because we have lived through those eras, or else they have been stereotyped by others, often using Rockwell in doing so. Rockwell can't be blamed for that. In fact, an artist who so accurately reflects the moral tone of the period in which he paints ought not to be discredited but revered for the insights he brought to those times and his ability to pass on those insights to future generations.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
30 April 1998