In Thomas Kinkade’s hometown, at the gallery where his art career first took off, an original painting by the self-described “Painter of Light” sat unsold for years. Buyers were perhaps deterred by the $110,000 asking price.
The painting, “Sunday Outing,” was being sold on consignment. When word came that Kinkade had died, its owner called and asked for the selling price to be raised to $150,000, gallerist Nathan Ross said Monday. The painting sold hours later.
It wasn’t the only one. Barraged with orders from customers in person, on the phone and online, Ross has called in as much extra help as he can find. He said on a typical day he’ll sell one to five Kinkade pieces through the gallery’s website.
In the last 48 hours, he says he’s received about 300 online orders.
The self-described “Painter of Light” produced sentimental scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes in dewy morning light that were beloved by many but criticized by the art establishment.
Kincade claimed to be the nation’s most collected living artist, and his paintings and spin-off products were said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales, and to be in 10 million homes in the U.S.
Those light-infused renderings are often prominently displayed in buildings, malls, and on products – generally depicting tranquil scenes with lush landscaping and streams running nearby. Many contain images from Bible passages.
Galleries across the country that specialize in Kinkade’s work are reporting a surge in sales following the painter’s death at age 54.
John Vassallo, who owns five Kinkade galleries in New York and New Jersey, says sales on Saturday reached half his typical sales for the entire month of December, the busiest month of the year. Like most Kinkade retailers, Vassallo traffics not in originals but limited edition reproductions, many of which come hand-signed by the artist himself.
Any piece with Kinkade’s original signature is in high demand at a cost of $8,000 to $15,000, said Vassallo.
He also said he believed Kinkade likely left behind unreleased work that would help feed public demand even after the painter’s death. The Morgan Hill company that produces and distributes Kinkade’s art hinted in a weekend message to gallery owners and employees that such work did indeed exist.
Thomas Kinkade Co. CEO John Hasting said the company was heartened by the outpouring of appreciation of Kinkade’s work. The company hasn’t offered any specifics on how much sales have increased.
Though no one knows how long it will last, the renewed interest in Kinkade would seem to represent something of a reversal of fortune.
In 2010, one of Kinkade’s companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after many years of huge commercial success.