Cheap Art for Cheap Conservatives

What do American conservatives hang on their walls?  Fr. Dwight Longenecker argues that too many of them fall for the sentimental hypocrisy of Thomas Kinkade.  Instead, they ought to recognize the sincerity of painters such as Andrew Wyeth.

Speaking in broad brush strokes, the American art scene seems a dangerous place for conservative intellectuals.  Take your pick: urinals on walls, celebrity soup cans masquerading as cutting-edge, a urine-soaked Jesus…what passes for “art” these days often drives conservatives bonkers.

But that is not the grim totality of today’s art scene.  Beyond the Tea-Party politicism of painters such as Jon McNaughton, conservatives can look to a broad array of recognizably conservative themes and artists in recent memory.

Jon McNaughton's "The Forgotten Man"

Jon McNaughton’s “The Forgotten Man”

But beware, warns Fr. Longenecker.  It would be too easy for conservatives to embrace the hypocritical Christianity and on-his-sleeve sentimentality of fakers such as Thomas Kinkade.  Kinkade made his millions peddling paintings of an imagined America, a happy hobbit-land of glowing farmhouses and quaint clustered villages.  Such false nostalgia, Longenecker insists, is a mere distraction from the real themes of thinking conservatism.

Image Source: The Imaginative Conservative

Image Source: The Imaginative Conservative

Better to embrace the harder truths of a painter such as Andrew Wyeth, Longenecker argues.  Wyeth’s America is not as chipper as Kinkade’s, but it has a deeper sensibility.

Image Source: The Imaginative Conservative

Image Source: The Imaginative Conservative

As Longenecker concludes,

If Kinkade illustrates the worst aspects of American conservatism–a sickening sentimentality, shallow prosperity gospel Christianity and ruthless Walmart marketing, Wyeth illustrates an authentic conservatism–rooted in deep personal emotion, an understated faith in goodness, beauty and truth, a concern for value instead of money and a disregard for marketing.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Patrick

     /  December 2, 2013

    Longenecker certainly isn’t the only one who doesn’t like him.

    Mark Driscoll: “WWJD? Burn Thomas Kinkade paintings…” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6_3Va-X1pk)

    Reply
    • Ha! Thanks for the link. I’m glad I’m not the only one to find Kinkade’s work galling. Proving once again that the line between “conservative” and “progressive” is not as cut-and-dried as some people like to assert…

      Reply
      • Patrick

         /  December 2, 2013

        There’s also an interesting chapter on Kinkade in Randall Balmer’s fascinating book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America (4th ed.).

  2. The Kinkade marketing empire was astounding. Haven’t heard to much about what’s going on since he died. Since much of it was mass-produced, they are still peddling it on the web.

    Reply
    • I had no idea. According to Fr. Longenecker, prints would go out to franchised “painters” around the country and world. Those folks would dab on some paint so that the prints could be sold as paintings.

      Reply
  3. Sadly, my mother purchased one of the prints that had some oil paint added, so I was able to examine such ‘art’ up close. A real scam – a typical scene with some paint overlay-ed on a few of the elements – trees, shrubs, mountains, etc. Turns an over-priced mass produced print into an even more over-priced mass produced quasi oil painting.

    Reply
  4. An aside – when I worked at Pepperdine, TK brought one of his children to campus for a tour. Don’t think the student enrolled – probably because we taught evolution :-)

    Reply

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