Somewhere an art snob is rejoicing right about now. One of the most successful, beloved, and also criticized American painters has died. At the age of 54, Thomas Kinkade aka the “Painter of Light,” passed away at his home in Los Gatos, California.
In a statement, the family said that the dad of four died from “natural causes,” on Friday evening and it seemed to have been unexpected. “Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,” his wife, Nanette, said. “We are shocked and saddened by his death.”
What really is amazing is how popular Kinkade was. The Mercury News states that his paintings, prints and merchandise are estimated to hang in one out of every 20 homes in the United States. Wow. Kinkade said of his work and the business of art, “There’s been million-seller books and million-seller CDs. But there hasn’t been, until now, million-seller art. We have found a way to bring to millions of people, an art that they can understand.” He felt he was on a personal mission, once saying, “with whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel.” As for the importance of art, he once told 60 Minutes, “Art is forever. It goes front and center on your wall, where everyday the rest of your life you see that image. And it is shaping your children, it’s shaping your life.”
The Wall Street Journal notes that his paintings, “were beloved by middlebrow America but reviled by the art establishment.” And the middlebrow, they were spending some mad money on his art and products to the tune of about $100 million a year. But all was not “light” in the Kinkade universe: his legacy includes suspicions of fraud, a DUI, and a big bankruptcy. The San Jose Mercury News notes that, “in 2010, the company’s Morgan Hill manufacturing arm, Pacific Metro, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Months later, 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.”
Do you, or do you know any of the 1 in 20 who have a Thomas Kinkade piece in their home?
Image via Pier Side Gallery