Thomas Kinkade, 54, dies at his Bay Area home

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Thomas Kinkade, whose luminous paintings formed the basis of a wide-reaching commercial empire, has died. Kinkade, 54, died at his Los Gatos home Friday, according to a spokesman for his family.

‘Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,’ his wife, Nanette, said in a statement to the San Jose Mercury News. ‘We are shocked and saddened by his death.’

Family spokesman David Satterfield said the death appeared to be from natural causes.

PHOTOS: Thomas Kinkade


Kinkade -- a devout Christian who spoke of God’s influence in his life and work -- called himself the ‘Painter of Light.’ While often criticized in the art world, his works were beloved by many.

When he first started out, he sold his paintings at supermarket parking lots in his hometown of Placerville, Calif. He and his wife spent their life savings to start making his prints.

That move ultimately attracted buyers who paid anywhere from a few hundred dollars for paper prints to $10,000 or more for canvas editions signed and retouched by Kinkade.

At one time, more than 350 independently owned stores were licensed to deal exclusively in Kinkade’s landscapes and street scenes.

Some who went into business with Kinkade ended up feeling betrayed. A 2003 lawsuit -- it mirrored others brought by failed Kinkade dealers -- alleged the artist used his Christian faith as a tool to fraudulently induce them to invest in a Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery. Three years later, former Kinkade dealers told The Times they had been contacted by FBI investigators looking into allegations that the painter and some of his top executives fraudulently induced investors to open galleries and then ruined them financially.

That same year, in an email to his licensed gallery owners, he acknowledged that he may have behaved poorly under stress -- overindulging in food and drink.

‘If during this period I ever offended anybody, I am sorry -- anyone who knows me knows I always try my best to be loving,’ he wrote in response to an article in The Times in which some ex-gallery owners and others painted a harsh portrait of the self-proclaimed ‘Painter of Light.’

‘The good news is I learned many valuable lessons from that phase of my life,’ Kinkade wrote. ‘With God’s help and the support of my family and friends, I have returned balance to my life. And if you have seen me lately, you know I have lost over 50 pounds and I feel terrific.’

Kinkade is survived by Nanette, his wife of three decades, and four children. The Times will have more on his death soon.

Read the full Times obituary.


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-- Times staff and wire reports