(NEW YORK) — Thomas Kinkade, the self-proclaimed “Painter of Light,” whose artwork hangs in an estimated 1 of every 20 homes in the U.S. died Friday at his home in Los Gatos, Calif.
He was 54.
Family spokesman Dave Satterfield told ABC News Radio that it appears the painter died of natural causes.
“His wife Nanette said that Thom had provided a wonderful life for his family and the family was shocked and saddened by his death,” Satterfield said.
Kinkade’s artwork focused on tranquil landscapes and scenes often depicting biblical passages.
In a biography on his website, he explained how he saw himself as an artist: “I share something in common with Norman Rockwell and, for that matter, with Walt Disney, in that I really like to make people happy.”
He told the San Jose Mercury News in 2002, “I’m a warrior for light.”
“With whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel,” he told the newspaper.
Laguna Beach gallery owner Marty Brown knew Kinkade personally and started selling his art in the 1980s.
“His legacy is that he fulfilled the American Dream, that he was able come from practically nothing. He basically became just a tremendously popular figure in terms of art and also he had a lot of you know fans — just people that were very enchanted with him as a person,” Brown said.
Kinkade’s paintings and products were said to bring an estimated $100 million a year in sales.
But Kinkade received criticism for his work by some in the art world who called his paintings, “mall art.”
“You’re never going to make everybody happy…when somebody gets as successful as he did, there are going to be people who are going to find something negative about it, but the point is that people loved his art, and a lot of people got a lot of great emotional, spiritual impact from it,” Brown said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jim Bennett, Deseret News
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com