Artist Thomas Kinkade died suddenly of natural causes, family says
Kinkade, 54, died suddenly. "We are shocked and saddened by his death," his wife Nanette said in a statement.
Authorities told the San Jose Mercury News that it will take several days to determine an exact cause of death.
Kinkade's sentimental paintings — with their scenes of cottages, country gardens and churches in dewy morning light — were beloved by many in middle-class America but generally dismissed by the art establishment. The paintings typically depict tranquil scenes with lush landscaping and streams running nearby. Many contain images from Bible passages.
Kinkade labeled himself the nation's most collected living artist. His paintings and spin-off products bring in about $100 million a year in sales, and are said to be in 10 million homes in the United States.
He grew up in a trailer in the Northern California city of Placerville, which he often rendered in his art as an idyllic community of friendly citizens. After hitting upon the formula for inspirational landscapes and village scenes, he and his wife put their modest savings into publishing the first reproductions of his paintings in 1984. They sold 1,000 copies for $35 each and never looked back.
Kinkade's Media Arts Group took in $32 million per quarter from 4,500 dealers across the country 10 years ago, according to the Mercury News. The company has since gone private. The costs of his paintings range from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000.
Services were pending.
-- Times staff and wire reports, with contributions from Ruben Vives and Shelby Grad
Photo: Thomas Kinkade in 2006. Credit: Associated Press