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Painter Thomas Kinkade mourned by fans, community

April 7, 2012 |  3:45 pm

Click for more photosFamed artist Thomas Kinkade was mourned Saturday by lovers of his paintings and in the area where he lived.

Kinkade's website displayed a memorial for the painter, which including a quotation from Mathew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Kinkade, 54, died suddenly Friday in the Los Gatos area south of San Jose, where he was active in the local arts community and charities.

PHOTOS: The work of Thomas Kinkade

He is survived by his wife and four children.

"Thom provided a wonderful life for his family," his wife, Nanette Kinkade, said in a statement. "We are shocked and saddened by his death."

“He was bigger than life,” said Steve Rice, mayor of Los Gatos. “He was gregarious, outgoing and engaging -- as you might expect an artist to be.”

Rice said Kinkade was "very involved" in the Los Gatos community, donating paintings to help raise money for the elementary schools and the Police Department. At one auction last year for the police foundation, one of Kinkade’s painting went for more than $10,000, according to Rice.

Longtime friend Curtis Wright -- former mayor of Monte Sereno, immediately west of Los Gatos -- expressed his condolences and said Kinkade used to say he didn't make art, but heirlooms for those who bought his works.

"He was a young guy and a great person," Wright told the Los Gatos Patch. "He really tried to do a lot of stuff for the community, and I really admire him for that. He had some factions between being the cool artist and being a father and husband, but when you look back on it, he did amazing things for the community and the world."

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 the Bible.

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.


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-- Times staff and wire reports, with contributions from Ruben Vives, Thomas Curwen and Shelby Grad

Photo: Thomas Kinkade in 2006. Credit: Associated Press