The death of one of America’s most well-known artists was met with sadness in Forsyth County.
Kay Montgomery, who along with husband Mike owns the Parsons Gallery featuring Thomas Kinkade in Lakeland Plaza shopping center, said Kinkade’s passing Friday came as a shock.
“His vice president of sales called us at 11 o’clock Friday night,” Montgomery said. “We were shocked and very saddened since he is a personal friend to us.”
According to national news reports, Kinkade died Friday of apparent natural causes at his home in Los Gatos, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 54.
The self-proclaimed “painter of light,” Kinkade was known mostly for his soft, pastoral scenes, often reflecting his personal Christian faith.
He was also known for mass marketing his work through limited edition signed and numbered canvases, which the Parsons gallery deals in, as well as prints and a wide range of gift and collectible items.
“We were kind of surprised by what a big news story this has been, but I feel the reason is because he was so very popular,” Montgomery said. “He was probably the most popular artist in America. One in every 10 households has something Kinkade.”
The Parsons venue is one of just two Kinkade galleries in the state, Montgomery said, with the other being in Savannah.
The local gallery has won recognition three times in its 12-year history for selling the most Kinkade pieces in the nation. And its art director, Ruth Womack, has been named the top seller in the nation, Montgomery said.
She added that the gallery was “slammed with people” after word of Kinkade’s death spread Saturday.
“A lot of people come in to pay their respects and offer condolences to us since we knew him personally,” she said. “And then the business started and we had one of the biggest days we’ve ever had.”
Montgomery said the store had a larger than usual amount of inventory Saturday since she and staff had been preparing for a June 9 visit by Kinkade.
“We’re unsure of how to handle that event now,” she said. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook with questions about it.”
She said someone from Kinkade’s family or company may be able to come in his place, but that’s not definite.
Steve Daniel, one of the gallery’s regular customers, said he was looking forward to the in-person visit and was saddened to hear of Kinkade’s death.
“I just turned on the news Saturday morning and heard about it,” Daniel said. “I ran in the other room and told my wife, Dawn. We were just in shock and couldn’t believe it.”
Daniel said he and his wife have about 20 of Kinkade’s limited edition canvases.
Most recently they had been collecting Kinkade’s Disney series, which captures images from animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid.”
“We mostly collect things that fit our household,” Daniel said. “A lot of the pieces capture places we’ve been or things that are somehow associated with us.”
Daniel said Kinkade’s passing didn’t prompt him to rush out and purchase additional items, though he likely will sometime soon.
“I’d like to finish out the Disney series and maybe get some other pieces,” he said. “I hope they don’t all get scooped up.”
Daniel called himself a “real appreciator” of Kinkade.
“I thought his work was great,” he said. “While he didn’t appeal to the hierarchy of [art] critics … he touched a lot of people.
“My first question was, ‘Is there any other talent in the family to take over?’ I think his talent will be missed.”