It's not surprising that Thomas Kinkade's death became a national news topic earlier this month since he was, by many accounts, the most commercially successful artist of all time. His light-filled scenes of gardens, landscapes, and bucolic man-made structures reportedly brought him over $53 million in art sales between 1997 and 2005, and his paintings hang in an estimated one out of every 20 homes in the United States.
Unfortunately, some less-than-picture-perfect details about the painter's final years have been emerging since his passing. For those who loved the tranquil mood portrayed in Kinkade's artwork, it may be a shock to hear that his life was anything but.
Kinkade’s brother Patrick told the San Jose Mercury News that years of enduring criticism against his artwork along with a painful split from his wife and four daughters had taken its toll on Kinkade—and he had been battling with alcoholism over the past four to five years. Patrick claims Kinkade had a relapse just before his death, which seems in line with this record of a dispatcher responding to the police call from Kinkade's girlfriend:
Fifty-four-year-old male unconscious, not breathing. Apparently he's been drinking all night and not moving.
It seems like Kinkade's life really took a hit in 2010, when he split from his wife at the same time that his company filed for bankruptcy. Demand for his paintings declined, galleries closed, and Kinkade was living apart from his four daughters. There was a DUI, accusations of inappropriate behavior with women, and allegations of defrauding investors. Kinkade reportedly owed about $9 million to at least 165 creditors when he died.
His relationship with his girlfriend Amy Pinto also appears to have been extremely troubled. Los Gatos police confirm they had responded "a couple" of times to Kinkade's home, with a neighbor saying those calls involved domestic disputes. Less than two weeks after his death, Pinto is now threatening to reveal personal documents intended to "tear down" his family and businesses, according to a civil complaint filed against Pinto on behalf of Kinkade's parent company and his estranged wife, Nanette.
I'm sure some critics will jump on these details in order to try and prove what an insincere person he was. Someone who pursued profits more than spirituality; a man who claimed to be filled with Christianity, but was in fact plagued by demons.
As for me, I just feel sorry for him. I'm no fan of his art, but knowing a bit more about Kinkade's troubles makes me wonder if those millions of peaceful paintings didn't haunt him in the end. He was obviously a talented guy and an extremely savvy marketer, but the delta between his idyllic creations and his own existence must have been difficult to face. It seems unfair to expect that his life should have somehow mirrored his artwork, and yet that seems to have been a common criticism.
As his brother said:
There's no hypocrisy in Tom's vision. What you're looking at is a man. He believed in God. He loved his daughters. He wanted people to be affirmed by his work. But he was awfully human.
Do you think Thomas Kinkade's work was hypocritical?
Image via Flickr/fredthompson