Here’s something to deepen your observation of Easter. While devout Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, this man’s passing on Good Friday leads to a kind of different kind of immortality, and we are not talking about paintings.
Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” and one of the most popular artists in America, died suddenly Friday at his Los Gatos home. He was 54.
His family said in a statement that his death appeared to be from natural causes.
“Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,” his wife, Nanette, said in a statement. “We are shocked and saddened by his death.”
His paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States. Fans cite the warm, familiar feeling of his mass-produced works of art, while it has become fashionable for art critics to dismiss his pieces as tacky. In any event, his prints of idyllic cottages and bucolic garden gates helped establish a brand — famed for their painted highlights — not commonly seen in the art world.
“I’m a warrior for light,” Kinkade told the Mercury News in 2002, alluding not just to his technical skill at creating light on canvas but to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine. “With whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel.”
Now, if you want to instead refer to the Los Gatos Patch (an AOL-owned series of hyperlocal blogs), Kinkade actually died in Monte Sereno, while with his live-in girlfriend, as he had been estranged from his wife for two years. That would explain why his family was in Australia at the time of his death. Kincade’s passing is indeed relevant to the Real Bay Area, since he lived in Los Gatos. Or Monte Sereno, depending on which reported version you prefer. But this scan of the firefighters’ frequency shows an engine was dispatched to 16342 Ridgecrest Ave, due to a 54 year old male “drinking all night, not moving.” That address is owned by someone named Kinkade, and also had an “under influence of drugs/alcohol” arrest there last year. The address is missing from most property databases, though, including the Recorder’s Office.
Kinkade certainly has his staunch supporters and determined detractors. This Mercury News article generated 150 comments in just a few hours and had more than 250 by the following afternoon. Most Merc articles draw under 20 comments. The NY Times obituary generated an even more derisive stream of criticism, while the Washington Post put the negative commentary in the article itself. The daddy of all Kinkade-dissing news items has to go to this 2006 Los Angeles Times piece, though.
But there’s an aspect of Thomas Kinkade that had managed to elude us all this time. It turns out that his kitschy paintings of cottages in the woods inspired multiple housing developments.
That’s right, for the fan who isn’t content with buying a snowglobe or a throw rug, there were plans for actual tract houses trying to look like his paintings. And one of the first such developments, the Village at Hiddenbrooke, was built in Vallejo right as dot.com went dot.bomb in 2001. The homes were 1800-2600 square feet on 4000 square foot lots. The large photo above is interior décor from one of those model homes. Most of the links to the builder and the development in the Salon article are now defunct.
It’s not easy figuring out which streets in Hiddenbrooke are part of The Village. And given that the builder was London-based, that’s a particularly interesting name for a community accused of being somewhat, um, ersatz. Here’s a home that sold last year, and do check out its history, because it sold for less in 2011 than when it was sold new nine years beforehand. You can check out the neighborhood on Redfin but nothing seems to be for sale there now.
However, Kinkade did not stop with just the one housing development in Vallejo.
The photo at right shows the team planning for five Kinkade-inspired $4 to $6 million luxury homes around Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho named The Gates of Coeur d’Alene. This project was launched in (of course) 2006, at the height of bubblicious housing insanity.
Plans for 100 homes based on the cottage paintings were being developed later that winter for a project in Columbia, Missouri called The Gates at Old Hawthorne. Prices were expected to come in at $500,000 to $1 million. It’s not clear if any of these plans came to fruition, as the builder’s website no longer seems to exist. This 2007 article reflects the typical attitude of housing boosters, acknowledging the slowdown but insisting that It’s Special Here and full steam ahead for the Kinkade development:
The homes are being built at a time when the U.S. home market is declining. However, Columbia and Boone County have been able to avoid the national trend. The median price for new single-family homes in Boone County has steadily increased, going from around $136,000 in May 2003 to a little over $188,000 in May of this year. And while the price of new homes is rising, the number of homes being built has decreased from 79 single-family units in May 2003 to 52 this May.
“In general, our home market is good, (but) it’s not as good as last year’s,” said Brent Jones, president of the Columbia Board of Realtors. According to Jones, the present home market is a buyer’s market. The effects of the market are even more apparent in the sale of high-end houses, like the Kinkade homes. […]
“News stories give the idea that the market is homogenous,” Jones said. He cited cities that have experienced extreme home appreciation, and are now experiencing just as extreme depreciation. The Columbia market is relatively stable and hasn’t had the appreciation that other markets have experienced, .
However, market fluctuations are not a concern for HST.
“One of the reasons we came to Columbia is because Columbia’s economy is so strong,” Stewart said. Sales of the Kinkade houses are surpassing the inventory, Stewart added.
There is no evidence that either of these Kinkade-inspired home developments were ever built. Most references to them are from 2006, when everyone was drunk on Kool-aid. Here’s an application for an alternative use for the Missouri land, which suggests nothing was ever built from the Kinkade project. The Gates of Old Hawthorne website is gone, and here are some empty lots for sale from that project.
Just like the empty cave in today’s Holiday Story.
Have yourselves a Happy Easter, and remember: This means Spring Bounce has begun!