The light has gone for the "Painter of Light."
Thomas Kinkade, who claimed to be the most collected living artist in America, died Friday at his home in Los Gatos, Calif., of apparently natural causes, the Associated Press reported. He was 54.
His sentimental, light-infused paintings of gardens and cottages, assembled for the mass market by workers in a factory-like process, were said to fetch $100 million a year in sales through scores of galleries in malls and on QVC. He claimed to be in 10 million American homes, even if only in the zillions of calendars he sold.
The art world rejected him and his art, but Kinkade didn't care. Instead, he expanded from his trademarked title of "Painter of Light" to licensing his name to scores of products, writing novels, painting for collectors-only cruises, and even designing houses and furnishings.
He compared himself to populist artists Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. "(Warhol) is my hero, and I'm his heir apparent," he told USA TODAY in 2002. A devout Christian, he called himself a "warrier for light," a reference to the ancient artistic practice of using light to depict the divine in art.