The "Painter of Light" Thomas Kinkade has died Friday in his California home, according to the San Jose Mercury News. He was 54. A statement from the family said that his death appeared to be from natural causes, the newspaper reports.
The Christian artist became well known for his paintings of idyllic cottages, creating at least 1,000 paintings of landscapes, churches, gardens, lighthouses, and seascapes. His paintings often featured streams, bridges, and light radiating from a cottage. His website had described him as the most-collected living American artist.
In 2010, Kinkade was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after one of his firms filed for bankruptcy. The FBI was investigating whether he fraudulently induced investors and ruined them financially, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2006. Before Kinkade's group went private, the company made $32 million per quarter from 4,500 dealers, according to the Mercury News.
Kinkade studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Art Center of College of Design, though he dropped out of the schools. His art sold well but received much criticism in the art community. He was named artist of the year by the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers in 1995, and chosen as designated graphic artist of the year for three years. In 1999, he was voted into U.S. Art magazine's hall of fame.
Kinkade is survived by his wife and four children. Many of his works include a Bible reference, a fish (ichthus), his signature, and the letter N in honor of his wife, Nanette. "Paintings are the tools that can inspire the heart to greater faith," Kinkade has said. "My paintings are messengers of God's love. Nature is simply the language which I speak."
Updated (4/12): A new report from The Daily suggests that a Santa Clara County dispatcher described the call as a “54-year-old male, unconscious, not breathing. Apparently he has been drinking all night and not moving … CPR in progress.”
Earlier this week, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Kinkade's wife had filed for legal separation about two years ago. She and the couple's children were in Australia at the time of his death. Kinkade's live-in girlfriend, Amy Pinto, 48, who made the 911 call, told the Mercury News that he “died in his sleep, very happy, in the house he built, with the paintings he loved, and the woman he loved.”
The Los Gatos police told The Daily they had responded to a couple of calls to his house in the past. Results of toxicology and other tests from the autopsy could take up to 20 weeks, according to the report.
The Kinkade Company has not decided how it will reveal his unreleased work, a spokesman told The Daily. Since his death, his paintings have sold for up to $10,000.