To many art lovers, internationally renowned artist Thomas Kinkade was the epitome of success.
To many entrenched in the art establishment, he was a sellout who gave up his artistic creativity in order to mass-produce anything that would bring in money.
To all who studied his business, however, there was little doubt that he was successful and left an impact on the world through his paintings that focused on landscapes, cottages and churches.
Kinkade, 54, died Friday at his home in Los Gatos, CA, of what appeared to be natural causes, family spokesman David Satterfield said.
The self-described "Painter of Light” claimed to be one of the nation's most collected artists. His work brought in more than $100 million a year in sales and was said to grace the walls of 10 million homes in the United States.
Before Kinkade's Media Arts Group went private in the middle of the past decade, the company took in $32 million per quarter from 4,500 dealers across the country, according to the Mercury News. The cost of his paintings ranges from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000.
One of those dealers used to be located in Wyandotte. A franchise gallery that sold only Kinkade pieces was set up at 3111 Biddle, just down from City Hall.
Patt Slack, owner of River’s Edge Gallery, said the Kinkade gallery was in Wyandotte for about six years, from the mid to late 1990s. In the late '90s, Slack said, Kinkade came to Wyandotte and hosted an event at Bishop Park. She attended the gathering.
“He gave a little talk and his family was with him,” Slack recalls. “He didn’t sign things, but there were things available for purchase. … At that point, he really had nothing to do with his career. It was just a production line.”
Slack, who used to sell Kinkade’s work in her gallery, said she knew him personally before he became popular, which she said drastically changed him.
“He was really looked down upon by the fine art world because of the mass production of his artwork … and the overproduction that caused a lot of franchise owners to not be able to run their business,” Slack said. “In the art world, there is a lot of controversy about that.”
Kinkade made no excuses for the volume of his work, saying his goal is merely to give people what they want and “to make people happy."
“I try to create paintings that are a window for the imagination,” Kinkade is quoted as saying on his website. “If people look at my work and are reminded of the way things once were or perhaps the way they could be, then I've done my job."