Kitsch

Art characterized by vapidly sentimental, often pretentious poor taste. It is typically clumsy, repetitive, cheesy, and slickly commercial.

The art critic Clement Greenberg (American, 1909-1994) defined kitsch in the 1930s as ersatz culture, "for those who, insensible to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some sort can provide." Kitsch can be deceptive, he warned, adding, "It has many different levels, and some of them are high enough to be dangerous to the naïve seeker of true light."

Artists whose works have been considered kitsch are William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905), Maxfield Parrish (American, 1870-1966), and Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978). Although their works are more seriously considered and even admired by art critics and historians today, there are many other artists whose works continue to be labeled kitsch. Among contemporary examples, the work of Thomas Kinkade (American, 1958-), whose frothing oceans, idyllic cottages and feverishly colorful gardens bear titles like The Blessings of Spring and Hometown Evening, have been called kitsch. His website, nevertheless says that he's "America's most collected living artist," and the corporation that bears his name, and manufactures photographic reproductions of his paintings (adding actual brushstrokes to many of them), has been making annual profits in the millions of dollars for several years. (Artlex.com)

 

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