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There are many notable artists worthy of respect and admiration, whose artworks are considered to be masterpieces. A visit to the Parsons Gallery in Georgia has proved that Thomas Kinkade has a rightful position to stand among them. The gallery exhibits the largest collection of Thomas Kinkade artworks, a contemporary artist who is often rejected by the elite art world and loved by almost every American family. Indeed, critics often claim that Kinkade’s art is nothing more than kitsch. In the book “The Artist in the Mall,” Kinkade’s works are labeled as kitsch because they do not have any content or specificity within. They serve the purpose of bringing only visual pleasure and are oriented on mass production. “The art-world snobbery” cannot accept and feel disdain to those who bring art to the marketplace. However, Thomas Kinkade was called “the most collected artist in America” (O'Neal) for good reason. His defiance to the elite fine world and the appeal to create art that pleases public brought him popular appreciation and admiration. Interestingly, Thomas Kinkade had three stages of his career as a painter: romantic realism, French impressionism and the Painter of Light period. Painting landscapes in the style of academic realism, Kinkade also wanted to create artworks using French impressionistic techniques (Goff). Thus, Robert Girrard was born, and this artistic experiment lasted from 1984 to 1990 (Goff). Robert Girrard had freedom in using bold, energetic brushstrokes and applying pastel color variations. In the book “Partisan Canons,” the authors spoke about the glowing light, which was the distinctive feature of Kinkade's artworks. This shimmering gleaming effect and his “sophisticated use of broken color” refined his talent of painting when he entered the Painter of Light period. The last period was considered the most commercialized and market-oriented stage of his art career. Nowadays, Kinkade's versions of artworks are sold in malls and outlets, through the Internet, and are imprinted on calendars, pillows, cards, and clocks.

The Parsons Gallery turned out to be worth visiting. “Lady and the Tramp” stroke the eye with its romantic and innocent display of love at first sight between an elegant cocker spaniel and a reckless mutt. One of the best classic love stories, the animated Disney film “Lady and the Tramp” inspired the artist to reproduce the heart-stirring relationship on canvas. It was released and finished in 2013, after Thomas Kinkade’s death. In one image, the artist managed to depict all the characters and the most favorite scenes from the film. In the foreground, there were adorable Lady and the Tramp in the midst of colorful flowers and lavish foliage, and behind them, the whole city lived its own life. Kinkade’s choice of soft colors that were melting in one another at the glowing sunset only added to the whole romantic atmosphere of the painting, and truly exemplified the romantic impressionism genre of the artwork.

The Christmas series of paintings also amazed with their richness and variation of color. The “Spirit of Christmas” (2007) and “Christmas in New York, Rockefeller Center” (2008) belonged to impressionism. In these paintings, Kinkade also played with light and shade and created them to be very emotional. In the “Spirit of Christmas,” the artist blended colors, making a smooth transition from the snow-filled ground to the glowing sky. The scene, where the Christmas celebration took place, was luminous with window lights. This effect of shimmering, so characteristic to impressionism, created a magic and festive atmosphere of the most joyous time of the season. In the “Christmas in New York, Rockefeller Center,” Kinkade, focused the attention on the light around the biggest Christmas tree. Blue gauze, mixed with window lights and small snow, was reflected on the skating-rink. There was an impression as if the whole festive evening was of soft, alluring purple color.

An allegorical painting “The Good Shepherd's Cottage” (2001) depicted an idyllic, innocent bucolic scene of Jesus meeting his flock. His brightly lit house was welcoming, warm and comfortable. This picture was very sentimental as people were portrayed as gentle sheep that came to their kind shepherd. Kinkade's bright colors and energetic brushstrokes in painting the landscape defined the impressionistic touch. As John Clancy mentioned, the descriptive feature of impressionism was an “effect of light in an object”, in the painting this radiant light was the one that came from the house. It symbolized that the sheep would find peace, comfort, and security there.

The painting “Cobblestone Bridge” (2000) engaged the view by its lively colors and the effect of light on general perception of the image. Kinkade's choice of colors was also poetic: the brightness of the foliage was in perfect harmony with the blue sky and peachy clouds. As other impressionistic Kinkade's paintings, it did not contain any specificity or personality. It was an artwork for the audience to admire and experience its own emotions. Tranquil houses in a remote countryside offer some form of escapism to one's own imaginary world. I was not the only one who enjoyed this painting. An old man was looking at the painting with such tenderness that I worked up the courage to ask him how he found and interpreted this painting. He said that Kinkade's artworks had a great impression on him for their luminous landscapes that seemed to come from a fantasy world. He said that Kinkade was a master of inspiring people with his talent of playing with light. This particular painting reminded him of his childhood, when his family gathered together in a warm house to share the meal and spend the peaceful evening together.

Before coming to the Parsons Gallery I had already been partly familiarized with the artworks of Thomas Kinkade. Every year I enjoyed looking at two printed versions of “Blessing of Christmas” (2004) and “Spirit of Christmas” (2007) hanging on the wall as Christmas decorations at my grandparents' house. The pictures always added Christmas spirit to the whole atmosphere of merriment in the house. The Parsons Gallery did not dispel my expectations to see “the most collected artist in America” (O'Neal). The dramatic effect of the glowing light and Kinkade's choice of color for landscape scenery excited my admiration. The artist's pastel paintings with the shimmering effect of the light made me forget about the reality and think of magic. Neat houses with the smoke going up the chimney and melting in the sky and radiantly lit windows made me think of my family and value the time spent together more. Thomas Kinkade's paintings were created for the audience's appreciation; therefore, they seemed to be so dear and close to everyone. The visit to the Parsons Gallery assured me that the world is a beautiful place, and we should value each moment spent on earth. Though Kinkade's paintings did not carry any specific meaning, except visual appreciation, they reminded me of family and home values, faith in God, and protection of our nature. That is why I consider art as one of the best ways of individual development and perception of oneself.

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