Thomas Kinkade, self-professed
paint-by-number "painter of light" and pastoral daydreams, allegedly battled alcoholism in the last years of his life because of criticism of his work—and according to his brother, he relapsed shortly before his death.
While his estranged wife maintains that he died in his sleep of natural causes at the age of 54, an autopsy could take weeks as the Santa Clara County coroner's office awaits the results of several tests—including toxicology screening—before determining the cause of death.
According to the San Jose Mercury, Kinkade's brother Patrick asserted that the famed painter had relapsed into alcoholism just a month before his untimely death. "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," said Patrick Kinkade. In 2010, Thomas Kinkade's mugshot went viral after his arrest for drunk driving and he lost a civil lawsuit with Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners in 2006.
Susan Orlean, who profiled the painter in 2001, speculated in an article for the New Yorker that "waning interest in his radiant village scenes" had weighed heavily on his state of being. "The last few years had to have been tough, even for someone as cock-sure as Kinkade," she wrote. "My guess is that he had already figured out his next act in the event that his reign as the Painter of Light was about to come to a close. He was just one of those people who seemed like he would always find a way." The LA Times reports that Thomas Kinkade Co. officials sent a message to distributors that the business will continue, saying that "his art and powerful message of inspiration will live on."