Painter of Light Thomas Kinkade battled alcoholism over the past several years and had a relapse just before his death at his home in California a family member has said.
Thomas Kinkade’s brother, Patrick, told the San Jose Mercury News decades of attacks on Kinkade’s work and a split with his wife two years ago had taken a toll on the artist.
“He would shoulder the world, pull the naysayers on his back and smile when he was doing it,” Patrick Kinkade told Mercury News.
“As much as he said it didn’t bother him, in his heart deep down inside it would sadden him that people would criticize so hatefully his work and his vision when people didn’t understand him,” he added.
Thomas Kinkade died in Monte Sereno on April 6 at age 54 of what a spokesman has said was natural causes. An autopsy is pending.
A recording of a dispatcher involved in the response to his home says Thomas Kinkade had been drinking all night and was not moving.
Still adjusting from a turbulent year in 2010, Thomas Kinkade split from his wife the same year his company filed for bankruptcy.
With a decline in his paintings’ sales, galleries closed and he struggled with sobriety, especially so he could continually see his four daughters.
“He loved Nanette and was heartbroken,” his friend Pete Jillo told Mercury News of his former wife of roughly 28 years he met on a paper route.
He was working on “adopting a clean lifestyle” and with some ups and downs, was getting there, right until the night before his death.
Thomas Kinkade’s scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes led to a commercial empire that was said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales. The artist’s paintings hang in an estimated one out of every 20 homes in the United States.
A key feature of his paintings is their glowing highlights and saturated pastel colors. His works often portray bucolic, idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, and main streets.
“There’s no hypocrisy in Thom’s vision,” his brother told Mercury News.
“What you’re looking at is a man. He believed in God. He loved his daughters. He wanted people to be affirmed by his work. But he was awfully human.”
“Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,” his wife, Nanette, said in a statement according to msnbc.com.
“We are shocked and saddened by his death.”
The painter is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products through his company The Thomas Kinkade Company.
The prices of his paintings range from $200 to more than $10,000.
“Thomas Kinkade, the celebrated <<Painter of Light>> is one of the most widely collected and beloved artists of our day,” his official website says.
“Each year millions of people are drawn to the luminous light and tranquil mood of Kinkade’s paintings and include his creations in their lives through prints, books, and other fine collectibles.”
Thomas Kinkade, an University of California Berkeley graduate, was a devout Christian and has said his inspiration comes from his religious beliefs and that his work is intended to contain a larger moral meaning.
“I try to create paintings that are a window for the imagination,” Thomas Kinkade said on his website.
“If people look at my work and are reminded of the way things once were or perhaps the way they could be, then I’ve done my job.”
Thomas Kinkade’s company made $32 million per quarter from 4,500 dealers across the country 10 years ago, before going private, the Mercury News reported.
His website also offers prints, mugs, nightlights and other home-decor items adorned with his paintings, which feature bridges, churches, cottages, Disney scenes, gazebos estates and the outdoors.
Thomas Kinkade grew up in the small town of Placerville, California, graduated from high school in 1976, before attending the University of California, Berkeley and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
He married his wife Nanette in 1982 and the couple has four daughters: Merritt, Chandler, Winsor and Everett all named after artists.
Thomas Kinkade is reported to have earned $53 million for his artistic work between 1997 and May 2005.
But in 2010, his company’s Morgan Hill manufacturing arm, Pacific Metro, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Months later, Thomas Kinkade was reportedly arrested on suspicion of DUI. In 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported the FBI was investigating whether he fraudulently induced investors and then ruined them financially.