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SXSW First Look: ‘Art For Everybody’ Uncovers Secrets Of Painter Thomas Kinkade, Whose Sunny Pictures Hid A Very Dark Side

Artist Thomas Kinkade sketching a portrait of his five-year-old daughter Winsor (holding umbrella) in studio at home.

EXCLUSIVE: Artist Thomas Kincade became a sensation, arguably the most successful painter of his time. Millions of people bought his works, or at least reproductions of them. And yet the vast of majority of critics loathed him.

“Thomas Kinkade had a quite outsized cultural impact, with really bad art,” one observer comments in the documentary Art for Everybody, which is making its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight section. “I mean really, really, really bad art.”

We’ve got your first look at the film directed by Miranda Yousef in the clip above. The documentary explores how Kinkade advanced an image of himself as an avatar of Christian values, and the homey scenes he painted — of bucolic cottages in the woods, with a few farm animals scattered about — seemed almost designed to induce a feeling of beatific contentment. But the man himself harbored shades much darker than the gentle shadows of his landscapes.

“He rose to fame in the ‘90s, marketing himself to evangelicals, and against the art establishment,” a description of the documentary says. “Yet beneath his pristine image were demons that would drive him to alcoholism, scandal, and death from an overdose in 2012. After his passing, Kinkade’s daughters uncovered a trove of unseen, dark paintings, launching a search for the true man and artist behind the brand. Through skeptical critics, adoring fans, and Kinkade’s friends and family, Art For Everybody uncovers the real Thomas Kinkade, a complex man divided by the same forces that continue to pull us all apart.”

Art for Everybody holds its premiere on Monday, March 13, with additional screenings on March 15 and 16. Yousef directed and edited the film. Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville produced, along with Tim Rummel. The cinematography is by Tasha Van Zandt. 

This is the feature directorial debut for Yousef. Her editing credits include Art & Krime by Krimes (2021), The New Bauhaus (2019), and Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (2018). 

Watch the exclusive clip from Art for Everybody above.

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