8 Fascinating Facts About Thomas Kinkade’s Life and Work

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Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

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Thomas Kinkade was one of the most popular painters of our time. His work was characterized by its light and airy palettes, and he became known as the “Painter of Light.” Today, his paintings are highly sought-after and can sell for millions of dollars. In this blog post, we will take a look at 10 fascinating facts about Thomas Kinkade's life and work.

Where did Thomas Kinkade live?

Thomas Kinkade was an American painter known for his idyllic, light-infused works of art. Born in 1958 in Sacramento, California, Kinkade began painting as a child and went on to study at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He first gained attention for his work in the early 1980s, when he started producing lithographs of classic images from Disney movies. Kinkade went on to become one of the most commercially successful artists of his generation, with his work appearing on everything from calendars to coffee mugs.

Single exposure twilight shot - captured in Auburn, CA under the instruction of Rich Baum.
Thomas Kinkade was known to play with light – like in this Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

Thomas Kinkade had a passion for art from a young age

From a young age, Kinkade was fascinated by the world of art. He would often sit for hours in front of the TV, painting and drawing along with his favorite cartoons. After high school, Kinkade attended UC Berkley and the Art Center College of Design where he studied art. Over the next few years, Kinkade's popularity grew steadily, and he became known as the “Painter of Light” and was able to reproduce his paintings for the American public on a very large scale.

Kinkade's paintings are often associated with the phrase “painter of light”

Thomas Kinkade, the self-proclaimed “Painter of Light,” was one of the most commercially successful artists of the late 20th century. His mass-produced paintings and prints were immensely popular, and his work adorned everything from calendars to coffee mugs. However, Kinkade's work was also criticized by many in the art world, who accused him of pandering to the lowest common denominator. Regardless of one's opinion of his work, there is no denying that Kinkade's paintings are instantly recognizable and have had a lasting impact on American culture.

The Thomas Kinkade Company made a Kinkade painting come to life.

Kinkade's business relied on a “semi-industrial” style, where he would provide artists with a prefabricated base, and then they would add details. In this way, Kinkade's art would feel more real even on reproductions of the original art . The reproductions were made in Thomas Kinkade studios by former art students and other professional artists.

With this method, he was able to open Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries across the nation, which enabled his art to make it into malls and smaller communities everywhere. However, because he was a modern artist, there were (and are) many false reproductions made outside of Thomas Kinkade studios by developing countries like China and Thailand.

Kinkade's death was sudden.

Kinkade's death caught everyone by surprise. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 54, after imbibing a deadly combination of alcohol and medication. When Kinkade died, he left behind his girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, and his wife from whom he was separated, Nanette Kinkade.

Legal battles ensued between Amy Pinto-Walsh and Nanette Kinkade, as the latter wanted to ensure that Amy Pinto-Walsh did not release or reveal anything potentially damaging to Kinkade's company or reputuation. Court documents reveal that they reached a private settlement.

Thomas Kinkade changed the art world.

Art critics may hate him, but Thomas Kinkaid forever changed the world of art with his works. Kinkade's works live on as exciting pieces in many American homes; he is probably the most collected artist in America. Kinkade's treatment by the art world, in that sense, was deeply unfair. Kinkade's work was intensely popular in his life, and continues to be a million seller art style in his death.

Despite his struggles with alcoholism, Kinkade's family felt much sorrow when he passed away from an accidental overdose. They have carried on his legacy by continuing to operate Thomas Kinkade studios.

You can tell if a piece was made before or after his death by the signature

After his passing, works being produced by Thomas Kinkade studios have started displaying their business name on the artwork, whereas previously, the art was just signed as Thomas Kinkade.

Thomas Kinkade isn't the only Kinkade worth mentioning

He may be dwarfed by his brother's legacy, but there is another Kinkade. Thomas Kinkade's brother, Dr. Patrick Kinkade, is a venerated professor of criminal justice at Texas Christian University. Unlike his brother, however, Patrick Kinkade stays out of the spotlight.

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