America's best-selling artist Thomas Kinkade died unexpectedly yesterday in his California home at age 54, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The family said the death appeared to be of natural causes, but authorities will not know officially for a few days. "Thom provided a wonderful life for his family," said his wife in a statement. "We are shocked and saddened by his death."
The self-styled "Painter of Light" divided the artistic community with his mass-produced art that featured idyllic, sentimental scenes of landscapes, churches, and other warm, familiar subjects. Critics often dismissed them, but the American public loved them—it is estimated his artwork can be found in one in 20 US homes, notes the Mercury News. At the height of his popularity a decade ago, Kinkade's prints and originals brought in $32 million a quarter from 4,500 dealers around the country. "With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel," Kinkade once said.