If Thomas Kinkade Died in a Peaceful Sleep or a Drunken Stupor, It Doesn’t Matter

Thomas KinkadeThere are two sides to every story, and in keeping with that tested-and-proven adage, two versions have emerged describing Thomas Kinkade’s last few hours here on this side of heaven. Initially the painter’s girlfriend, Amy Pinto, tearfully reported that he “died in his sleep, very happy, in the house he built, with the paintings he loved, and the woman he loved.” And we were ready to go with that. Except now, an emergency dispatcher described Kinkade as a “54-year-old male, unconscious, not breathing. Apparently he has been drinking all night and not moving.” 

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Hmm. Follow me now. Drinking all night. Dying peacefully in his sleep. Drinking all night. Dying peacefully in his sleep. Sometimes in their retelling, details of news reports can get tweaked a little here and remixed a little there, though they don’t necessarily change the dynamic of the story. But there’s a big ol’ ginormous, Grand Canyon-and-a-half sized difference between someone going on to glory surrounded by the soothing whisper of angels and someone taking his last sips of air as a gasping boozehound. The two generally cannot be confused.

So it seems that what we have on our hands here is a mystery. Or, at the very least, a story to be investigated a bit further by Kinkade’s family and authorities.

This newest claim has called into question the legacy of the Evangelical artist, the self-proclaimed “Painter of Light” whose work is as standard to the Christian lifestyle as that painting of Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. Kinkade’s images are splashed across greeting cards and magnets and tote bags and calendars. I might have even seen one stretched across the T-shirt of a very busty woman in the sanctuary of my own church. Still, for as much of a mainstay as his art is to the faith and corresponding consumer products, Kinkade has not been without his share of what-Jesus-would-not-do drama.

According to a story that ran in the Los Angeles Times back in 2006, his troubles were fueled by money, alcohol, or a combination thereof, causing him to be embroiled in unholy incidents like fondling an unsuspecting woman’s breasts at a book signing, peeing on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel, and (gasp!) heckling illusionists Siegfried and Roy during an unflattering episode of intoxication. Kinkade was also facing legal woes from owners of his galleries across the country. He owed a reported $9 million to at least 165 creditors at the time of his death. Ouch.

Kinkade was known for creating art that Americans can understand (take that Andy Warhol!) but he never claimed to be perfect. And if he did struggle with alcoholism and debauchery, Lord knows he wouldn’t have been the first and he darn sure won’t be the last, Christian or not. His shortcomings have more than likely disqualified him from induction into sainthood and only time will tell what really happened the night that he went on to meet his maker—unless Amy Pinto writes a tell-all book or ends up on an episode of Snapped. But in the meantime, let’s just let sleeping dogs lie and look at his pretty art. Oooh. Aaah.

Do you think Kinkade’s struggles with money and alcohol will compromise his legacy?



Image via Allan Ferguson

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