The “Painter of Light,” as the world knew him, died last month. Artist and author Thomas Kinkade, well known as a devout Christian, was among the world’s highest earning and most popular living artists.
After his death, I sat with one of his books on my lap, and one of my grandbeans at my side. Reading aloud. Every so often she stroked a page. “That’s SO beautiful, isn’t it Nana?”
Indeed. Page after page showed heavenly views. Homes with lighted windows; abundant, colourful gardens, tidy stone pathways leading to quiet forests, and skies resplendent with God’s glory.
The artist had chosen to illuminate his paintings with words like these from poet Eliza Cook: “Sweet is the hour that brings us home, where all will spring to meet us…”
Kinkade was good at making people long for home. Repeated references to his own home and family cheered and encouraged admirers of his work: Keep your hearts at home. Enjoy the good God has given you there, at your side. Those were Kinkade’s messages.
But the artist’s simple pastoral canvases, of late, hid something disturbing. The last several years of the fifty-four year old painter’s life included great personal darkness. As critics in the art world accused him of schamltz, sentimental trip-trap, and the equivalent of artistic harlotry, reports of his bizarre behavior increased. Gallery owners accused him of defrauding people in the name of God. He battled with alcoholism. He replaced his wife with another woman, and became estranged from his family.
Pedestals are perilous places. Pride and popularity taper up to the jagged pinnacle of greed and wealth, and not many can keep their balance there. Apparently Mr. Kinkade lost his. I grieve that, but I understand it.
And this: When my grandchild and I finished reading that book on the warmth and blessings of home, every page filled with something that fingered her tender heart, she closed the book, stood up and said, Nana, I want to go home. So I walked her home. Her daddy greeted her with a hug and welcomed her there.
Good work, Thomas, I thought. No matter what you were.
Like Mr. Kinkade, I strive to serve God and others well with the gifts he has given. But also like him, I am a worm. An earth-crawler with dirt on my face, the hope of heaven in my spirit, and a prayer in my heart: “Lord, may the seeds I plant grow a longing in people’s souls for all things right and good.”
But God forbid that thinking I stand, I fall. For one day he will judge me and Mr. Kinkade and you, too — not on what has grown from our lives, but on whether he finds love and acceptance of his own Son, Jesus Christ, nestled in our hearts.
As did my grandbean, I pray to arrive safely home, to be met by Father’s embrace.