“I share something in common with Norman Rockwell and, for that matter, with Walt Disney, in that I really like to make people happy,” said popular artist Thomas Kinkade, who died Friday at 54, in a biography on his website.
His family said in a statement that his death appeared to be from natural causes. The artist died at his home in Los Gatos, Calif.
CBS News reported that Kinkade's paintings were anything but controversial, depicting scenes of a light-filled America with a heavy emphasis on home, hearth and church. His sentimental scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes in dewy morning light were beloved by many but criticized by the art establishment.
“I'm a warrior for light,” Kinkade, a self-described devout Christian, told the San Jose Mercury News in 2002, a reference to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine. “With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel.”
He claimed to be the nation's most collected living artist, and his paintings and spin-off products were said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales, and to be in 10 million homes in the United States.
His artistic philosophy was not to express himself through his paintings like many artists, but rather to give the masses what they wanted: warm, positive images, Ken Raasch, who co-founded Kinkade's company with him, told the Mercury News.
“I'd see a tree as being green, and he would see it as 47 different shades of green,” Raasch said. “He just saw the world in a much more detailed way than anyone I've ever seen.”
Kinkade was involved in a charity foundation. As a philanthropist, he contributed and helped raise millions of dollars that went to nonprofit agencies such as the Salvation Army and museums.
But in 2010, his Media Arts Group 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.