Thomas Kinkade, the self-described “Painter of Light” died April 6th at the age of 54. Kinkade, who claimed to be “America’s most-collected living artist,” was notable for the mass marketing, reproduction and licensing of his work. Kinkade’s work featured highly idealized “American” scenes and bucolic settings of nature, water, lighthouses, bridges, streets and cottages. Describing himself as a “devote Christian,” Kinkade’s work reflected what he considered to be “Christian ideals” and symbols.
Kinkade’s works are sold via television shopping channels, signature retail gallery franchises and also by mail order. He had numerous licensing and merchandising deals that included puzzles, greeting cards, calendars, Walmart gift cards, knickknacks and night-lights all with his imagery. Controversial in the fine art world not only for the mass commercialization of his idyllic works, Kinkade’s authenticity was often criticized as he would sell “original” works of art which were in fact prints of his work, touched up by “skilled craftsmen.”
Although the exact cause of his death will not be known for several weeks, recent reports suggest that Kinkade may have been drinking the night of his death and had recently struggled with alcoholism. At the time of his death, Kinkade was living with a girlfriend, his estranged wife and four daughters were travelling in Australia at the time of his death.