The Painter of Light was pissed off.
It was November 20, 2010, less than two years before he died, and Thomas Kinkade was at the Denver Broncos’ stadium to unveil Mile High Thunder, his painting for the Tim Tebow Foundation. At 52, he was America’s most popular—and the art establishment’s most hated—living artist. Esteemed art critic Jerry Saltz once wrote that “Kinkade's paintings are worthless schmaltz, and the lamestream media that love him are wrong.” But to his fans, Kinkade was everything.
Evangelical Christians snapped up his bucolic garden scenes and cozy cottages with windows that glowed so much they seemed, as Joan Didion once wrote, “as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.” Kinkade painted “John 3:16,” along with the sign of the fish, the traditional Christian symbol for Jesus, in the signature of each of his sentimental works that now hang in around 20 million homes globally. He also published books and calendars that paired his paintings with verses from the Bible or inspirational aphorisms attributed to the artist himself: “The best things in life are yours for the choosing”; “Creativity has everything to do with the way you live”; “Your life has meaning and beauty, and you are not alone.”