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The Business of Thomas Kinkade

Business of Thomas Kinkade Photo


Thomas Kinkade's Business


The recent death of Thomas Kinkade has drawn a great deal of media attention in the past year, largely due to the cause for his demise but also for the uncertain future of the Thomas Kinkade Gallery.   Kinkade was arguably the world's most financially successful commercial artist, having sold hundreds of millions of dollars of artwork since 1985.  But his business practices were not as skilled as his artistic talents.


A Forerunner in Commercial Mass Marketing


Kinkade made such a lasting impression on the industry of commercial art that there is even a Thomas Kinkade Wikipedia page devoted to his life.  It begins by talking of his impressive abilities in the mass marketing of wholesome, idyllic renderings of snow covered cottages and even of Boston's Fenway Park.  He was known at times to begin the portrait himself, and then pass them off to a subordinate in the Thomas Kinkade Gallery to complete.


It is unclear just how many of his paintings were actually created from start to finish by the master commercial artist, but his works are selling at increasingly higher values since his demise in 2012.  Business had been falling off in previous years, due to a variety of factors, but the well known name of Thomas Kinkade is still worth millions in some circles.


Going Public



The Thomas Kinkade Wikipedia page details his early years through to his death, spending a great deal of time discussing his financial shortcomings and legal issues.  The Thomas Kinkade Gallery went public in 1994, offering his reproductions through mail order and some retail stores.  Before long, his portraits were appearing on everything from coffee mugs to tee shirts and jigsaw puzzles.  Not a bad gig for a two year college dropout from Berkeley.


Kinkade began to franchise.   He met with some impressive success, too, acquiring over 350 dealers who used his name to sell his reproductions.  But his business began to suffer in the economic crash of the later 2000's as average Americans struggled to make mortgage payments and groceries bills.  Luxury items like high-priced lithographs were among the first to go.


Financial Troubles and Legal Matters


It is well documented, including in the Thomas Kinkade Wikipedia page, that his business practices were highly questionable.    He was accused several times of defrauding his Thomas Kinkade Gallery owners by failing to provide valuable information prior to bringing them on as dealers. 


In one unique case, two of these people were awarded $860,000 in damages.  After interest and legal fees, that amount was increased to $2.8 million. Kinkade eventually filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2010, shortly before his death.


Philanthropic Achievements


It should be noted that Kinkade did manage to possess some noble qualities.  He was very involved with a wide range of non-profit organizations, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, World Vision,  the Points of Light Foundation of President George W. Bush, and the Salvation Army's efforts in the Sept 11 Attacks. 


Thomas Kinkade seems to have been a very complex man that happened to lead a very full life while offering millions of people around the world a bit of hope and cheer through his wonderful works of art.