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Work by Thomas Kinkade (photo by Glen Dahlman/Flickr)

Thomas Kinkade was a painter of cabins, lighthouses, and improvable sunsets. He was an avowed evangelical Christian who fortified his saccharine landscapes with passages from the scriptures. In terms of sales, he was literally the most successful living artist in the world. Yet he died in tabloid-ready disgrace, his personal life and his business in utter disarray.

I had hoped that Weinstein BooksBillion Dollar Painter: The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, written by G. Eric Kuskey, the former head of licensing for Kinkade’s company, and Bettina Gilois, a professional author, would shed some light on the artist behind the phenomenon. Was he a sincere outsider or a canny huckster? Kuskey and Gilois do a fine job describing the rise and fall of the Kinkade media empire, but the man behind it never comes into clear focus, his achievements lost behind the enterprise and his humanity mired in his media-ready public persona.

I had never heard of Thomas Kinkade until Susan Orlean profiled him in The New Yorker in 2001. I was working at a contemporary art gallery at the time, and though 10 million people had purchased a Kinkade-licensed product, none of my coworkers knew who he was either.

Kinkade’s name started to appear on the art world’s radar in the following years. In 2004, conceptual artist Jeffrey Vallance curated a retrospective, Thomas Kinkade: Heaven on Earth, at the CSUF Grand Central Art Center. Vallance insisted this was not an exercise in irony but a legitimate look at the questions that Kinkade’s popularity and religious content raised about the contemporary art scene. That year, Kinkade’s company reached $2 billion in total retail sales.

But at the same time the business was fighting lawsuits by unhappy Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery franchise owners who claimed unethical business practices. The artist’s personal misconduct became public during the legal proceedings: Kinkade was accused of groping a woman at a sales event and of urinating on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim while saying, “This one’s for you, Walt.” In 2010 the company filed for bankruptcy, and less than two weeks later Kinkade was arrested for driving while intoxicated, resulting in ten days in jail. Two years later, at the age of 54, he would be dead of acute alcohol and Valium poisoning. Kinkade’s estranged wife would have to sue his new companion to get her to leave the family house. By then Kinkade’s company had pulled out of bankruptcy and broken the $4 billion revenue mark.

According to Billion Dollar Painter, Thomas Kinkade was barely eking out a living selling his artwork at art fairs (these are the events you might hear advertised on the radio as “starving artist sales” held in convention centers, not fairs like Art Basel or Frieze). He was then discovered painting in the street by Rick Barnett, “one of the best vacuum cleaner salesmen in the Kirby Vacuum Company,” who offered to become his representative on the spot, despite never having sold any art before. Barnett was extremely successful in selling Kinkade’s paintings to galleries, which inspired the artist to try his hand at lithographs to meet the increasing demand.

Enter Ken Raasch, a low-level executive at a small finance firm. Raasch invested $30,000 to start a company to create and sell reproductions of Kinkade’s works. Raassch quickly connected with the Bradford Exchange, a collectibles licensing company known for plates and mugs and music boxes, and the money started rolling in. Kinkade then discovered a process by which his lithographs could be transferred to canvas, and the company started producing “limited edition” copies nearly indistinguishable from the originals. Kinkade never produced more than about a dozen new paintings a year, but the company began selling reproductions at several different levels: plain prints, canvas transfers, transfers “accented with paint” by trained specialists, and the top — touched up by Kinkade himself. The company went public in 1994; by 1996, they were printing editions of each painting as large as 100,000.

The book portrays most of the principals at the Kinkade company as completely inexperienced in the collectibles business — at one point Kinkade’s pastor was made vice chairman of the board — but the company continued to grow nonetheless. They made licensing deals with a furniture manufacturer to create a Kinkade line, sold his prints on QVC, and eventually even licensed a housing development: The Village at Hiddenbrooke, a Painter of Light Community.

(photo by Qfamily/Flickr)

The problems started with the creation of the Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries. Franchisees were required to design and decorate their galleries according to stringent rules, and to buy their furnishings and stock exclusively from the Kinkade company. They were obligated to sell at prices set by the company, and if the franchise couldn’t live up to the stipulations, they were supposed to destroy their inventory. Meanwhile, the company began to undersell the galleries by dumping unsold merchandise with overstock liquidators and by offering cheaper, nearly indistinguishable editions on QVC. They sold licenses for new franchises in areas that were already underperforming, and franchise owners began going bankrupt. The lawsuits piled up, and Kinkade’s God-driven mission was tarnished beyond repair.

Where was Thomas Kinkade in all this? While Kuskey and Gilois succeed in illuminating the corporate machinations that made the Kinkade phenomenon, the man himself remains murky. Kuskey takes great pains to avoid speaking badly of Kinkade. The artist does not seem to have been very involved in the running of the company. When he appears in the narrative, he’s usually in the studio, working on another masterpiece.

Billion Dollar Painter depicts Kinkade as a slightly naïve romantic, from “[living] the artist’s life, sporting a beret everywhere he went” in his school years to his later habit of predicting that he would die prematurely, comparing himself to van Gogh or Toulouse-Lautrec. Kinkade is portrayed as a charismatic dreamer whose ambition is not the want of money, but rather the desire to reach as many people as possible. Kuskey writes:

It was Thom’s favorite subject: world domination. The excitement of planning, of dreaming, of bringing vision to life. And it wasn’t because of the money. It was because he believed God had a special purpose for him, and that was to influence people through his paintings. He thought that with his paintings, he would change the world.

Unfortunately, Kuskey doesn’t question what it means when Kinkade later places so much value on the furniture line and the housing development — neither of which the artist designed, and neither of which seem to have much to do with a godly message.

Thomas Kinkade mugs (photo by Zack Weinberg/Flickr)

Kuskey struggles to integrate Kinkade’s public persona with the real man, relegating his ego and his misbehavior to Kinkade’s “appetite.” He writes, “He had an appetite for life, for food, for drink, for beautiful things and beautiful women,” but appetite seems like a weak word to describe the sordid incident in which a young female companion had to call for help from a hotel after Kinkade drank so much that he was paralyzed for ten days from alcohol poisoning.

It’s easy for us to dismiss Kinkade as a clueless purveyor of kitsch, but he was not unaware of his place in the official art world. He often contrasted himself with modern artists, whom he felt were misguided in their drive for self-expression, comparing himself instead to popular illustrators like Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell. Kuskey quotes him as saying something that could have come easily have come from Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, or Damien Hirst: “Andy Warhol is my hero, and I’m his heir apparent.” Here’s hoping a future biography examines that claim more closely.

Eric Kuskey and Bettina Gilois’s Billion Dollar Painter: The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light is published by Weinstein Books and available from Amazon and other online booksellers.

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Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

Giovanni Garcia-Fenech is a painter based in Queens. His writing has appeared online at artnet, Artforum, Art in America, and Wired. His artwork has been exhibited throughout the United States, as well...

32 replies on “The Mystery of the Painter of Light

  1. March 31, 2014

    Re: “Enter Ken Raasch, a low-level executive at a small finance firm. Raasch invested $30,000 to start a company to create and sell reproductions of Kinkade’s works. Raassch quickly connected with the Bradford Exchange, a collectibles licensing company known for plates and mugs and music boxes, and the money started rolling in. Kinkade then discovered a process by which his lithographs could be transferred to canvas, and the company started producing “limited edition” copies nearly indistinguishable from the originals.”

    Dear Goivanni Garcia-Fenech:

    Thomas Kinkade paintings reproduced result in reproductions, not lithographs.

    FIRST, lithographs are original works of visual art created by hand by the artist.

    This factual perspective is confirmed by U.S. Custom`s May 2006 An Informed Compliance Publication titled Works of Art, Collector`s Pieces Antiques, and Other Cultural Property, which -in part- states: “The expression original engravings, prints and lithographs means impressions produced directly, in black and white or in color, of one or of several plates wholly executed by hand by the artist, irrespective of the process or of the material employed by him, but excluding any mechanical or photomechanical process.”

    SOURCE: Works of Art, Collector’s Pieces, Antiques, and Other Cultural Property

    icp061.pdf

    http://www.cbp.gov/document/publications/works-art-collectors-pieces-antiques-and-other-cultural-property

    SECOND, reproductions versus original works of visual art ie., lithographs created by an artist are -not- interchangeable, much less the same.

    This factual perspective is confirmed in the 1991 The Fifth Edition of the Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer, the author wrote: “The major traditional graphic-arts processes of long standing and continued popularity are lithograph, etching, drypoint, woodcutting or wood engraving, aquatint, and soft-ground etching. …The term “graphic arts” excludes all forms of mechanically reproduced works photographed or redrawn on plates; all processes in which the artist did not participate to his or her fullest capacity are reproductions.”

    SOURCE: Viking Adult; 5 Rev Upd edition (May 31, 1991), ISBN-10: 0670837016, ISBN-13: 978-0670837014 [This fifth edition has been prepared by Steven Sheehan, Director of the Ralph Mayer Center, Yale University School of Art.]
    https://books.google.com/books?id=fe6mQgAACAAJ&dq=1991+FIFTH+EDITION+OF+ARTIST%27S+HANDBOOK+BY+Ralph+Mayer&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_zuQVLr-PMerggTE-IOQCw&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA

    THIRD, reproductions of an artist’s work are not attributable to that artist.

    This factual perspective is confirmed by U.S. Copyright Law 106 A, “The Rights of Attribution – shall not apply to any reproduction?”

    SOURCE: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#106a

    Additionally, this perspective is confirmed by the Printing Industries of America, Inc. in their published Printing Trade Customs, which, in part, states: “6. PREPARATORY MATERIALS Working mechanical art, type, negatives, positives, flats, plates, and other items when supplied by the printer, shall remain his exclusive property unless otherwise agreed in writing.”

    SOURCE: http://www.brown.edu/Facilities/Graphic_Services/pdf/trade.pdf

    In other words, if an artist, and/or a company, authorizes a printer and/or chromist to reproduce their work, the resulting reproductions cannot be attributed to the artist and/or company artist. That printer that reproduced those reproductions would own them. That printer would only be contractually obligated to give the artist the reproductions they paid for. The artist pays for 1,000 reproductions, they get a 1,000 reproductions. All of the reproduction overruns [potentially dozens or more], all plates, negatives, digital files and the like used to reproduce those reproductions, would be owned by the printer and if they chose to do so that printer [or future new owner] could reproduce more reproductions without the knowledge or permission of the artist.

    U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW COMPILATIONS AND DERIVATIVE WORKS

    Furthermore, under U.S. Copyright Law 103. “Subject matter of copyright: Compilations and derivative works,” it states: “The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work.”

    SOURCE: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#103

    So, the artist and/or the company owns the “material” ie., painting contributed by the artist and/or company, but not the derivative work a.k.a. reproductions. Those reproductions manufactured by the printer, may have been authorized by the artist and/or company but until they are paid for, the printer owns them.

    There is no free lunch.

    FOURTH, “limited editions,” are original works of visual art signed and numbered by the artist.

    This factual perspective is confirmed under U.S. Copyright Law ? 101. Definitions, where a -work of visual art- is defined as: “a painting, drawing, print or sculpture, existing in a single copy, in a limited edition of 200 copies or fewer that are signed and consecutively numbered by the author, or, in the case of a sculpture, in multiple cast, carved, or fabricated sculptures of 200 or fewer that are consecutively numbered by the author and bear the signature or other identifying mark of the author.”

    SOURCE: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#101

    FIFTH, under New York Civil Code 15.01 (2.) states: “Article fifteen of the New York arts and cultural affairs law provides for disclosure in writing of certain information concerning multiples of prints and photographs when sold for more than one hundred dollars ($100) – whether the multiple is a reproduction.” The penalties for violation of New York Civil Code statutes under 15.15 may include but not limited to -refund-treble damages-court costs-expert witness fees-attorney fees- and not to mention potential civil fines.

    SOURCE: http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/LAWSSEAF.cgi?QUERYTYPE=LAWS+&QUERYDATA=$$ACA15.01$$@TXACA015.01+&LIST=LAW+&BROWSER=BROWSER+&TOKEN=27067392+&TARGET=VIEW

    SIXTH, under California Civil Code 1741-1745, it states: “California law provides for disclosure in writing of information concerning – whether the multiple is a reproduction” {when} “offered for sale or sold at wholesale or retail for one hundred dollars ($100) or more, exclusive of any frame.”

    SOURCE: http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/cacode/CIV/5/d3/4/1/1/s1738

    SEVENTH, under Oregon Revised Statutes Title 30. Education and Cultural Facilities, Chapter 359, Arts Commission and Arts Program; Art Transactions Fine Print Disclosure Statements, it states: “‘Reproduction’ means a copy of a fine print, but not a unique print made from the original plate.” and “If the seller describes a fine print as a reproduction, the seller need not furnish any further information.”

    SOURCE: http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/chapter/359

    EIGHTH, in the September 1998 Art World News trade magazine, the attorney Paul Winick (partner in the New York office of Thelen, Marrin, Johnson and Bridges), who specializes in intellectual property law, litigation and represents galleries, publishers and artists, wrote the article “Certificates of Authenticity: Dealer Liability.”

    In his article he explains the application of the Uniform Commercial Code as it applies to the “sales of most forms of visual art.” The author wrote: “UCC express warranty arises from two sources: The description of the goods given by the seller, and the seller statements made to induce the sale.” Those statements are said to become part of the “basis of the bargain” made between buyer and seller and, therefore, a basis for legal action if the description or statements turn out later to have been false.”

    The author also wrote: “Warranties need not depend on the sale document and can arise in statements made in advertisements or catalogues, so long as the buyer relied on those statements in formulating the bargain with the seller.” and that “Warranties are applicable regardless of fault or intent. It is no defense that the seller did not mean to make a misstatement, or that he thought the misstatement to be true. If the goods (the artwork) do not conform to the promise made (the warranty), the seller is liable, whether or not he knew it to be true.”

    When it comes to “disclaimers,” Paul Winick wrote: “Disclaimers are not viewed favorably by courts and, unless there is some way to reconcile the disclaimer and the representation, the disclaimer is disregarded and the representation is given effect.”

    WHAT IS MEANT BY REPRESENTATION?

    On page 1303 of the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, -representation- is defined as: “A presentation of fact – either by words or by conduct – made to induce someone to act, esp to enter into a contract.”

    WHAT IS MEANT BY DISCLOSURE?

    On page 476 of the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, -disclosure- is defined as: “The act or process of making known something that was previously unknown.”

    In closing, with full and honest disclosure to reproductions as reproductions the public might be able to give informed consent. With that kind of transparency, I wish everyone involved in the sale of embellished reproductions, much success.

    All the best,

    Gary Arseneau
    artist, creator of original lithographs, scholar and author
    Fernandina Beach, Florida

    1. But on the first line of your post reads: “The expression original engravings, prints and lithographs means impressions produced directly….” which means ORIGINAL engravings, ORIGINAL prints and ORIGINAL lithographs. You are correct that ORIGINAL lithographs involve the artist directly, but certainly you are aware that not ALL lithographs are original.

      1. Laura:

        Lithographs are original works of visual art by hand by the artist. Reproductions, lithographically printed, are reproductions, not lithographs. The term “lithograph” has been used, with or without intent, to mask what at best are reproductions.

        That is why I cite U.S. Customs, U.S. Copyright Law, industry regulations, and professional standards to define what constitutes authentic lithographs.

        All the best,

        Gary

    2. “Lithograph” refers to a printing process not necessarily a work of art. Artists can create lithographs but not all lithographs are art. And they are not all reproductions either. To be a reproduction, there would need to be an original that was then reproduced, using lithography, screenprinting, or some photomechanical process. If a work is conceived as a multiple, are those impressions then reproductions? Is the “original” in that case the ink on the stone or zinc? Also the issue of the “hand of the artist” is nearly always nebulous with lithography. Prestige printers like Gemini actually ink and print from the artist’s design, that is in part why artists go to them. I do agree that the paragraph you quote from the article is confusing as to whether Kinkade created paintings that were then reproduced through lithography or whether he conceived his images as lithographs that were printed in multiple on canvas.

      1. Lithographs are original works of visual art wholly executed by hand by the artist [U.S. Customs]. Reproductions are copies of original works of visual art done by someone other than the artist that cannot be attributable to an artist because they did not create it. [U.S. Copyright Law 106A.

        As for Gemini, if chromists [someone who copies an artist’s work} reproduce an artist’s work the results are chromist-made reproductions. Now these chromists may reproduce the artist’s work using lithography, serigraphy a.k.a.. silkscreen [and other printmaking] techniques but they would be lithographic and silkscreen reproductions, not original works of visual art.

        Finally, as long as the image is wholly executed by hand by the artist, it would be an original work of visual art. If someone else makes the image for the artist, at best, it would forever be a -reproduction-. There are no exceptions.

        In other words, if the artist did not create the work in question, there is no question it is -not- an original work of visual art, much less attributable to that artist.

        Unfortunately, reality has been hijacked by too many to name in the industry for avarice.

        Caveat Emptor!

        Gary Arseneau
        artist, creator of original lithographs
        Fernandina Beach, Florida

        1. I’m sorry to disabuse you, but the evidence you cite here and above does not prove your point in the slightest, nor does your argument over the semantics of the word “lithograph” make any rational sense. I think everyone agrees that there are such things as “original prints”, but these can by made by lithography, etching, screenprint, linocut, etc… They can also be editioned and signed by the artist but printed by the artist OR a printer. I think you should look into the practices of Gemini, Mixografia, Tamarind, etc… because you seem not to be aware how prints are actually made for all your “evidence”. Do you even know what Gemini is? I’m not defending Kinkade’s methods here, people can be fooled into thinking that just because something says “limited edition, certificate of authenticity” it must be worth something. I’m also sure you are a creator of original lithographs, but that your narrow definition of the term is not that held by most of the art industry. I wouldn’t have replied but your information is just really misleading!

          1. Dear Anonymousbequest:

            If the artist did not create the so-called art attributed to them then it will never be their work. At best, it could be called a reproduction.

            The “art industry,” as it applies to the United States, is governed by the following, whether they understand it, much less follow it:

            U.S. Copyright law § 101. Definitions, states: “A “work of visual art” is — (1) a painting, drawing, print or sculpture, existing in a single copy, in a limited edition of 200 copies or fewer that are signed and consecutively numbered by the author, or, in the case of a sculpture, in multiple cast, carved, or fabricated sculptures of 200 or fewer that are consecutively numbered by the author and bear the signature or other identifying mark of the author.”[FN 1]

            Additionally, under U.S. Copyright Law under § 101. Definitions, states: “A work of visual art does not include — (A)(i) any poster, map, globe, chart, technical drawing, diagram, model, applied art, motion picture or other audiovisual work, book, magazine, newspaper, periodical, data base, electronic information service, electronic publication, or similar publication.”[FN 2]

            Yet, self-servingly some collectors, museum professionals and others, in an attempt to legitimize their non-disclosed reproductions and posthumous forgeries, have made the argument that a published book from an author’s manuscript is still their work, recorded music by an artist copied to CDs and the like is still their music and therefore a reproduction, whether posthumously reproduced or not, of an artist’s art is still their work.

            Nothing could be further from the truth.

            Under U.S. Copyright Law, a “derivative work” is defined as: “a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a ‘derivative work’.”[FN 3]

            Some have defended a collection of non-disclosed reproductions and forgeries with the argument that they are no different that an audio recordings of music.

            Under U.S. Copyright Law a Phonorecord is defined as: “a material object in which sounds are fixed and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. A phonorecord may include a cassette tape, an LP vinyl disk, a compact disk, or other means of fixing sounds. A phonorecord does not include those sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work.”[FN 4]

            In other words, sounds reproduced to a material object, such as a CD would result in a derivative work a.k.a. reproduction.

            Some have defended a collection of non-disclosed reproductions and forgeries with the argument that they are no different that the publication of a book.

            Under U.S. Copyright Law, -publication is defined as: “Publication has a technical meaning in copyright law. According to the statute, “Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.”[FN 5]

            In other words, a manuscript published as books, the resulting copies would be considered derivative works a.k.a. reproductions.

            Some have defended a collection of non-disclosed reproductions and forgeries with the argument that they are reproduced from the artist’s work and therefore still their work.

            Under U.S. Copyright Law, § 106A. -Rights of certain authors to attribution and integrity – states: “(a) Rights of Attribution and Integrity. — Subject to section 107 and independent of the exclusive rights provided in section 106, the author of a work of visual art — (1) shall have the right — (A) to claim authorship of that work, and (3) The rights described in paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection (a) shall not apply to any reproduction.”[FN 6]

            The rights of attribution shall not apply to any reproduction.

            CRITERIA FOR DEACCESSIONING AND DISPOSAL
            On page 22 of the Association of Art Museum Directos’ published 2001 Professional Practices in Art Museum publication, under the subtitle -Criteria for Deaccessioning and Disposal-, it states: “The authenticity or attribution of the object lacks sufficient aesthetic merit or art historical importance to warrant retention. In disposing of or retaining a presumed forgery, the museum shall consider all ethical issues including the consequences of returning the object to the market.”[FN 7]

            On page 660 of the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, -forgery- is defined as: “The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine.”[FN 8]

            Rhetorically, reproductions, much less forgeries have no authenticity and cannot be attributed to a living artist much less a dead one,

            On page 816-817 of Kluwer Law International’s published 1998 Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts, Third Edition by John Henry Merryman and Albert E. Elsen wrote about “Counterfeit Art.”[FN 9]

            Under the subtitle “Truth,” the authors wrote: “The most serious harm that good counterfeits do is to confuse and misdirect the search for valid learning. The counterfeit objects falsifies history and misdirects inquiry.”[FN 10]

            Additionally, under the subtitle “Resource Allocation,” the authors wrote: “Museum and art historical resources are always limited. What gets acquired, displayed, conserved and studied is the result of a continuous process of triage, in which some objects can be favoured only at the expenses of others. Counterfeit objects distort the process.”[FN 11]

            Finally, under the subtitle “Fraud,” the authors wrote: “There remains the most obvious harm of all: counterfeit cultural objects are instruments of fraud. Most are created in order to deceive and defraud, but even “innocent” counterfeits can, and often will, be so used. The same considerations of justice and social order that make deliberate fraud of others kinds criminal apply equally to fraud through the medium of counterfeit art…”[FN 12]

            In closing, I hope the enclosed will empower you to better understand these contentious issues of authenticity.

            All the best,

            Gary Arseneau

            FOOTNOTES:
            1. http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html

            2. http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html

            3. http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/definitions.html

            4. Ibid

            http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#101

            6. http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#106a

            7. http://www.collegeart.org/guidelines/sculpture

            8. Copyright © 1999, By West Group, ISBN 0-314-22864-0

            9. © Kluwer Law International 1998, ISBN 90-411-0697-9

            10. Ibid

            11. Ibid

            12. Ibid

  2. I thought that Kinkade sold giclees, not lithographs. And, aren’t all reproductions that are enhanced (signed, colored, repaired, whatever) by the artist himself always more valuable? Rembrandt made etchings (intaglios) – some he pulled (printed) by himself, and some he had pulled (printed) by master print makers.

    1. Thomas Kinkade sold non-disclosed reproductions using terms like “giclee” to mask its’ true disclosure as a reproduction/poster. Obscenely, Thomas Kinkade and his dealers misrepresented reproductions as original works of visual art ie., lithographs. Lithographs are original works of visual art by hand by the artist that would never be trivialized as a reproduction of a painting, even a Thomas Kinkade painting.

      As for whether Thomas Kinkade embellished reproductions are valuable or not, that is argumentative. How much would you pay for a touched up reproduction/poster?

      Finally, etchings are original works of visual art by hand by the artist. To include Rembrandt in this discussion with Thomas Kinkade’s non-disclosed reproductions is a -red herring-.

      Gary Arseneau

  3. There are two types of lithographs: the 19th century type that is hand drawn directly onto the stone with a wax crayon, and then hand-pulled each print by the artist or master-printer. The second 20th century type is photographed, chemically burned & transferred to a metal plate, and then machine-reproduced on a printing press. Both of these methods can be “limited” editions and numbered, usually hand-signed by the artist (not the printer.) Giclees are digital (not screen-dot) reproductions on canvas (and sometimes paper) that can be limited or unlimited editions, but are generally printed one at a time. The images can carry previous signatures and newer signatures. Much of the confusion is in the use of the terminology. There are lithographic reproductions of Rembrandts etchings that are passed off (or just confused) as “originals” because the “originals” were also “reproductions.”

    1. and if a Rembrandt etching is signed by Rembrandt it is certainly more valuable, even if it were a reproduction.

      1. Dear marte48:

        Lithographs are original works of visual art wholly executed by hand by the artist and would -never- be trivialized as “reproduced.” [U.S. Customs]

        Only original works of visual such as lithographs, etchings and the like can be considered -limited edition-, if “signed and numbered” by the artist [U.S. Copyright Law 101]. Reproductions, by there very nature, are not limited and cannot be attributable to the artist [U.S. Copyright Law 106A]. So, if someone signs and numbers reproductions, they do so, with or without intent, to create the illusion of limitation when in fact there is none [Printing Trade Customs].

        Finally, lifetime impressions of Rembrandt etching plates printed and approved by Rembrandt are original works of visual art ie., etchings. Those original works of visual art ie., etchings, attributed to Rembrandt, are not reproductions for reasons including but not limited to: no preexisting work of visual art was reproduced because the etching plate is the tool for Rembrandt just like the brush was a tool for his painting. In other words, the etching plate printed, by the artist, directly to paper prints in reverse. Reproduction, by definition, is copy of an original done by someone other than the artist [Dictionary of Art Terms & Techniques]. Therefore it is a contradiction of terms to refer to an original work of visual art, the artist created, as a reproduction.

        In closing, like most of us, we believe what we hear the most. The so-called art industry is dominated by those who have skewed, with or without intent, terminology to fit their agenda to sell pyrite as gold by leaving out the -fool- part.

        I hope the enclosed will empower all, so they may give informed consent.

        Caveat Emptor,

        Gary

        1. I have personally done all three: intaglio etching, stone lithography, and photo-lithography. I have also had reproductions of my artwork made in all of these printmaking techniques. Most recently, I have had giclees of my work done from digital scans. You do not sound like you have done any of these techniques yourself. You may have knowledge of legal definitions, but that’s like telling someone who has actually played the violin what the definition of music is.

          1. Dear marte48:

            I have personally drawn by hand using William Korn’s Litho Crayon [no. 1-5] on my limestone blocks that range in size from 8″ by 8″ by 2″ deep to 24′ by 32″ by 5″ deep, chemically prepared those images and printed [with my Conrad Combination Press] over 12,000 original works of visual art ie., lithographs. My website is: garyarseneau.com

            Respectfully, if you were to review, once again, what I have written on this website, I would hope that you would realize that lithographs, etchings and the like are original works of visual art wholly executed by hand by the artist versus reproductions which are copies of original works of visual art done by someone other than the artist.

            Original works of visual art versus reproductions are not interchangeable, much less the same.

            Finally, if you have labored to create etchings and lithographs, much less print them, I would hope this information would have you reconsider diminishing your original works of visual art as “reproductions.” To learn more on the misconceptions perpetuated in the art market, please go to: garyarseneau.blogspot.com

            In closing, I humbly speak from experience and document with authority.

            All the best,

            Gary Arseneau
            artist, creator of original lithographs & scholar
            Fernandina Beach, Florida

          2. Dear marte48:

            If I may, let me answer your question with this excerpt from one of my published monographs:

            On page 816-817 of Kluwer Law International’s published 1998 Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts, Third Edition by John Henry Merryman and Albert E. Elsen wrote about “Counterfeit Art.”[FN 64]

            Under the subtitle “Truth,” the authors wrote: “The most serious harm that good counterfeits do is to confuse and misdirect the search for valid learning. The counterfeit objects falsifies history and misdirects inquiry.”[FN 65]

            Additionally, under the subtitle “Resource Allocation,” the authors wrote: “Museum and art historical resources are always limited. What gets acquired, displayed, conserved and studied is the result of a continuous process of triage, in which some objects can be favoured only at the expenses of others. Counterfeit objects distort the process.”[FN 66]

            Finally, under the subtitle “Fraud,” the authors wrote: “There remains the most obvious harm of all: counterfeit cultural objects are instruments of fraud. Most are created in order to deceive and defraud, but even “innocent” counterfeits can, and often will, be so used. The same considerations of justice and social order that make deliberate fraud of others kinds criminal apply equally to fraud through the medium of counterfeit art…”[FN 67]

            i thank you for your consideration.

            All the best,

            Gary Arseneau

            FOOTNOTES:
            64. © Kluwer Law International 1998, ISBN 90-411-0697-9
            65. Ibid
            66. Ibid
            67. Ibid

          3. Gary, I apologize for making the assumption that you are not a working artist. Obviously, you are. I defend Thomas Kinkade because I assume (another assumption) that he was an artist (perhaps not on your level, but an artist none the less) who came upon a method of generating considerable wealth – probably far beyond his wildest dreams – and he was influenced (as all of us are) by others who saw in him a chance to have a share in that wealth. Even Steve Jobs – another “genius” who used other people’s ideas to create wealth – had to answer to his investors.

          4. As for his “religiosity” I am not a fan of religious art myself – I find it manipulative and disingenuous to put it mildly. But the history of art is interwoven with religion to such a degree that it is nearly impossible to extricate the two. Regards…

          5. many people, apparently, are interested in a contemporary artist who generated millions of dollars.

  4. A question for you, Gary: Is something a fake or forgery if it is not openly purported to be an original? If it is clearly presented as a reproduction, can it still be called a “fake?” Isn’t a forgery something that is intended to deceive?

    1. Dear marte48,

      Very good question.

      On page 661 of the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, -forgery- is defined as: “The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine.”

      So, if full and honest disclosure is given to reproductions as reproductions, who can find fault with that?

      Gary

      1. Thanks, Gary. That is what I would have thought. So, Kinkade at al can only be accused of selling fakes and forgeries if they intentionally passed off his prints as originals.

  5. There seems to be a lot of discussion here about what constitutes an original or a copy, but my main perspective re Mr. Kincaid is that his work is saccharine, treacly garbage. Hardly art. Products for the tasteless.

  6. Okay, Merriam-Webster dictionary pretty clearly states that anything described here can be considered a lithograph. That;s good enough for me, and no need to post the same exact 800 page legal definition of a lithograph again. Everyone read the first 57 times you posted it. It’s an obtuse fallacy that an article such as this, outside of a legal journal or court proceeding is invalidated because it uses the common, understood, and perfectly acceptable definition in society of the term “lithograph.” Just as anyone could point out a million times a day that in a legal sense “precedent” refers to the actions of previous legal authorities in demonstrably similar circumstances or cases. Yet, if we are not speaking judicially, we can say “my aunt hosting Thanksgiving has no precedent,” even though it doesn’t have a thing to do with court room proceedings. Language, words, terms obviously have different yet equally acceptable uses depending on concept. “Lithograph” is no exception. Even if an entire thread is hijacked a million times to repeat the same claim word for word.

  7. I purchased a book of his plein air paintings that was on sale. They were not the best nor the worst that I have seen. Instead his desire for acceptance and appreciation
    drove him to paint and market those sweet over the top paintings. Instead he went for the “gold ring” . In the end his excesses and oversized ego caught up to him.
    As time progresses these sweet over the top paintings will probably have very
    little if any value monetary or otherwise. There may be a few who will treasure
    them but will most likely serve as a reminder of the price of excess and ego
    run amuck. What would have been if he continued painting similar to those
    plein air landscapes ?

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