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Kinkade painting celebrates 50th year since Elvis purchased Graceland

By: Michael Lollar
Source: Commercial Appeal
March 23, 2007 - 12:01:00 AM
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The gates to Graceland are open, and Elvis and Priscilla Presley are walking out the front door toward a green Cadillac convertible in the driveway.

'It's the artistic equivalent of the romance novel,' artist Thomas Kinkade says of the painting he did to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Elvis' purchase of Graceland, his refuge from the crush of fame.

Thomas Kinkade's oil painting "Graceland, 50th Anniversary" takes artistic license, shrinking the lawn a bit, to focus attention on the home. Kinkade said the color of the car in the driveway suits the painting but doesn't represent one Presley owned.
Thomas Kinkade's oil painting "Graceland, 50th Anniversary" takes artistic license, shrinking the lawn a bit, to focus attention on the home. Kinkade said the color of the car in the driveway suits the painting but doesn't represent one Presley owned.

Kinkade's oil painting, 'Graceland, 50th Anniversary', takes artistic license, using a telescoping perspective that shrinks the sweeping lawn in order to focus attention on the home. Instead of Elvis' famous pink Cadillac, Kinkade chose a shade of green for the car, because, 'I just felt like we needed a color accent that was a little different,' he says.

Visitors may pre-order prints Friday during a 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. reception and tour of Graceland. The painting will be officially unveiled Saturday at a 5 p.m. cocktail reception at the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum and a 7 p.m. auction at Gibson Beale Street

Showcase Lounge. The auction will feature an original Kinkade drawing, with proceeds from the drawing going to Presley Place, a home for the homeless financed by Elvis Presley Enterprises and managed through the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association.

Known as the 'painter of light', Kinkade visited Memphis in September and spent three hours on the front lawn painting a study of Graceland. He called it a 'sketchy painting', which he took to his California studio to refine for the official portrait. It is a commemoration of Elvis' purchase of Graceland in 1957 with proceeds from his first No. 1 hit song, Heartbreak Hotel.

Kinkade incorporated his signature warm glowing lights in the windows of Graceland with late afternoon sunlight streaming through the trees and across the lawn. He also 'thinned the trees' on the lawn to keep the focus on the home as a symbol of Elvis.

'I truly believe we have an opportunity with this painting to commemorate an American icon,' the artist says. 'That home was a dream for a lot of people -- a vision of the good life. And the home, 50 years later, is a kind of lasting emblem of the legacy of Elvis'.

For Kinkade, 49, Graceland and many of his other subjects have represented refuge from harsh realities. His parents separated when he was 5, and Kinkade says he grew up poor.

People he calls 'armchair critics' often criticize his paintings for their signature lighting effects and the fervent coziness of the glowing cottages that help define some of his most popular works. Kinkade says some of his inspiration came from a newspaper route he had as a child, delivering newspapers 'and seeing house after house with the lights on. In the art, people see a symbol of a life they aspire to, a life of home and family'.

As in the Graceland painting, chimneys in Kinkade's works are almost always accented by a wisp of smoke, suggesting people are at home and leaving it to the viewer to imagine what's going on inside.

Kinkade's own life story will be the subject of a feature film, 'The Christmas Cottage', now in production and scheduled for release during the Christmas season.

'It tells the story of our family's poverty,' says Kinkade, now known as one of the best-selling artists in history.

Kinkade says his father was 'a talented amateur artist' who passed his talent, but not his presence, to his son. 'The movie will be an anthem to the survival of dysfunctional families. My dad traveled the roads. He was a womanizer, a World War II veteran, a Frank Sinatra-Rat Pack wannabe and was not involved with the family. He was a civilian employee of the Air Force after the war and drifted from job to job'.

The artist, whose art took him from rags to riches, says his own life, like Elvis Presley's, often has seemed like 'a struggle to keep hold of my core values'.

Tommy Ashker, owner of the Thomas Kinkade Gallery at Wolfchase Galleria, says prints of the Graceland painting will be available in 18-by-24-inch versions at $1,000 to $5,000 and in 30-by-40-inch versions at $2,250 to $10,000.

In each Kinkade painting, fans look for the the letter 'N', incorporated in a variety of disguises as a tribute to his wife, Nanette. In 'Graceland', he recalls using four.

Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan says the green Cadillac painted by Kinkade does not represent a car from Elvis' own collection.

Elvis may have owned a green Cadillac at some point, but, if so, there 'is no documentation of it'. He says the Graceland staff considered the green car 'artistic license in a beautiful painting'.

There is a green Cadillac at the entrance to the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum at Graceland, but Morgan says that car was acquired after Elvis' death and is simply to draw attention to the museum and the Elvis cars inside.

Ashker says the model used for the car in the Kinkade painting is a 1958 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz convertible. The car is poised to exit on a driveway that looks like a country lane minus the guard shack that now sits at the entrance to Graceland.

-- Michael Lollar: 529-2793


What: Unveiling of 'Graceland, 50th Anniversary' by artist Thomas Kinkade.

When: Visitors may pre-order prints during a 6:30-8:30 p.m. reception and tour of Graceland on Friday. Kinkade and Priscilla Presley then will unveil the painting at a 5-6:30 p.m. cocktail reception Saturday at the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, followed by a 7-9 p.m. auction and signing ceremony in the Lucille Ballroom of the Gibson Beale Street Showcase.

Admission: Tickets, $250, cover Friday's reception and tour, Saturday's cocktail reception and the Saturday auction. For tickets or more information, call Graceland reservations at (800) 238-2010. Tickets only for the auction and print signing at Gibson ($15) may be purchased by calling Thomas Kinkade Gallery at 257-1212.

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