SAN JOSE, Calif. – Decades of mean-spirited personal attacks against Thomas Kinkade for the bucolic images of storybook cottages he painted, as well as a heartbreaking split from his wife and four daughters two years ago, had taken a toll on the famous “Painter of Light,” his brother said Thursday.
He turned to the bottle, battling alcoholism over the past four or five years, Patrick Kinkade said of his brother. Even though he had sobered up and had been “in his studio painting religiously” over the past few months, he said, Thomas Kinkade had a relapse just before his death last Friday at his home in Monte Sereno, Calif.
A fire department dispatcher sent Engine 8 to respond to the Kinkade home, where Kinkade’s girlfriend had called police. “Fifty-four-year-old male unconscious, not breathing,” the dispatcher says in a recording by firescan.net. “Apparently he’s been drinking all night and not moving.”
Patrick Kinkade called his brother a brilliant and prolific artist and intellectual but one who fought inner demons.
“He would shoulder the world, pull the naysayers on his back and smile when he was doing it,” said Patrick Kinkade, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas Christian University. “As much as he said it didn’t bother him, in his heart deep down inside it would sadden him that people would criticize so hatefully his work and his vision when people didn’t understand him.”
Kinkade’s paintings depicting dreamy scenes of candlelit cottages, stone bridges and garden gates was shunned by art critics as tacky and kitsch but adored by Main Street Americans when reproduced on affordable canvases, coffee cups and calendars. By 2005, the company handling his art was one of the top 50 licensed brands in the country.