When famed American artist Thomas Kinkade died at his home on April 6, 2012, he was the nation’s most collected artist, his paintings were in 10 million homes in the United States and his paintings were said to sell for $100 million a year. He was only 54.
“I’m a warrior for light,” Kinkade told the San Jose Mercury News in 2002. Kinkade was a self-described devout Christian who said he use light to symbolize the divine in his paintings.
In the very beginning of his artistic career, Kinkade put his entire savings into the printing of his first lithograph. Thom said he was inspired not by fame or fortune, but by the simple act of “painting from the heart, putting on canvas the natural wonders and images that moved him most.”
Throughout his life, Kinkade shared his joy and used his paints in support of hospitals, schools, and humanitarian relief. As the awards cascaded down upon him, it was Thom’s sense of purpose that his art was a ministry. This included custom images that were sold for the Salvation Army, Hurricane Katrina relief, Rotary International Relief. Some were also donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the White House, The Vatican and Britain’s respected Tate Museum.
Kinkade revolutionized the art world by starting his own galleries. Most painters rely on galleries owned by others to display their art.
Kinkade’s professed goal as an artist, who was Christian, was to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images he created. A feature of his paintings are their glowing highlights and saturated pastel colors. His works often portray idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, lighthouses and snow scenes. He also depicted various Christian themes including the Christian cross and churches.
Despite his overwhelming popular success with the American public and countless Christians, the secular critics have usually attacked him. The fine-art world overwhelmingly sneered at Kinkade’s work as little more than commercially successful kitsch. He received considerable criticism for selling his prints on the QVC home shopping network. Other critics had dismssed his works as chocolate box art and mall art. His sentimental paintings of country gardens and churches in dewy morning light, were loved by millions of Americans, but looked down upon by the art establishment.
Despite the slings and arrows cast in his direction by hostile art critics, Kinkade was undaunted and continued painting what he wanted to paint. He was a devoted family man who added symbols of his love to his artwork. Several paintings contain hidden “N’s” representing his beautiful wife Nanette. Other paintings include the numbers 5282 in recognition of their wedding date May 2, 1982. His four daughters were also included in his artwork. He painted images of them in Evening at Merritt’s Cottage, Chandler’s Cottage, Winsor Manor and Everett’s Cottage.
Kinkade always gave credit to a higher power for both the ability and the inspiration to create his paintings. His wish had always been that his artwork would inspire others and remind people to slow down and appreciate the little details in life, and to look for beauty in the world around us.
While Kinkade avoided using traditional Christian symbols, he frequently said he was trying to capture the meaning of Bible verses such as a lighthouse image that was said to represent John 8:12: “I am the light of the world.”
Kinkade was raised in Placerville, California and attended the University of California at Berkeley for two years before transferring to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He died at his home in an area known as Los Gatos in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Known widely as the “Painter of Light”, Thomas Kinkade certainly left this world a brighter place in which to live.
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