Thomas Kinkade Biography


Birthday: January 19, 1958 (Capricorn)

Born In: Sacramento, California, United States

William Thomas Kinkade III was an iconic American painter noted for creating paintings with realistic, pastoral, and idyllic subjects. He started experimenting with methods in creating effects of light and atmosphere in his works while attending Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He thrived in developing a flourishing industry on his light-infused paintings depicting calm and peaceful idyllic scenes. He described himself as a "Painter of Light" and protected the phrase through trademark, however the moniker was earlier used to describe English painter J. M. W. Turner. Kinkade’s works typically included idyllic portrayal of gardens, cottages, bridges, streetscapes, and churches infused with warm glow of sunlight. He also used the brush name Robert Girrard in producing Impressionist-style paintings. During his lifetime, Kinkade achieved success with mass marketing of his paintings as printed reproductions and other licensed products through the Thomas Kinkade Company thus emerging as one of the most popular and highly collected living artists of his time. The art critics however tagged his work as being kitschy. His company also launched the Thomas Kinkade Gallery retail stores, mostly in the US. Kinkade died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and diazepam.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: William Thomas Kinkade III

Died At Age: 54


Spouse/Ex-: Nanette Wiley (m. 1982)

father: William Thomas Kinkade II

mother: Maryanne Kinkade

siblings: Kate Johnson, Patrick Kinkade

children: Chandler Kinkade, Everett Kinkade, Merritt Kinkade, Winsor Kinkade

Born Country: United States

Realist Painters American Men

Died on: April 6, 2012

place of death: Monte Sereno, California, United States

Cause of Death: Intoxication

U.S. State: California

More Facts

education: Art Center College of Design, Pasadena[

Childhood & Early Life

William Thomas Kinkade III was born on January 19, 1958, in Sacramento in the US state of California. He was brought up in the Placerville town.

He attended El Dorado High School and graduated from there in 1976. His early mentors included Charles Bell and Glenn Wessels. The latter motivated him to study at the University of California at Berkeley, which he did. Kinkade however transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena after completing two years of general education at Berkeley. Reportedly Kinkade was a member of the Church of the Nazarene.

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Kinkade and his college friend and artist James Gurney travelled across the US in June 1980 and finished their journey in New York where they made a contract of producing a sketching handbook with Guptill Publications. The handbook titled ‘The Artist's Guide to Sketching’ published in 1982 became a best-seller of Guptill Publications that year. The book’s success led the two to work on background art in the August 26, 1983, released and Ralph Bakshi directed animated film ‘Fire and Ice’. Kinkade started exploring the use of light in his works while working on the film.

He went on to produce his works and sold his originals in galleries across California. His works depicting idealistic values of American scene painting often featured pastel colors and radiant effects and realistic, pastoral, and idyllic subjects including gardens, Main Streets, lighthouses, streams and stone cottages.

Different Christian themes including the churches and the Christian cross also recurred in Kinkade’s works who described himself as a "devout Christian". The radiant effects of his paintings, according to the artist, were expressive of spiritual values. He portrayed specific chapter-and-verse allusions to Bible passages in many of his works.

Production procedure of Kinkade has been elucidated as "a semi-industrial process in which low-level apprentices embellish a prefab base provided by Kinkade." Reportedly paintings of Kinkade were first designed and painted by him before being sent for mass-producing prints. Although it is generally believed that Kinkade was involved in designing and producing most of his original conceptual works, he inducted several studio assistants for assisting him in developing multiple prints of his famous oil paintings. Thus the printed versions of his paintings that collectors were likely to own were touched up with manual brush strokes by someone else rather than the virtuoso.

He started distributing his works taking help from investors in 1984 and launched Lightpost Publishing, dedicated exclusively to his artwork, with Ken Raasch in 1989. Lightpost later evolved into Media Arts Group, Inc., a holding company, and eventually into the Thomas Kinkade Company. Thomas Kinkade Gallery retail stores were opened mostly in the US.

With time mass marketing of Kinkade‘s artwork in the form of printed reproductions and other licensed products through the Thomas Kinkade Company led him to achieve the feat of becoming one of the most highly collected living artists. Thanks to licensing with Hallmark and other corporations, images of Kinkade appear on a wide variety of products like calendars, jigsaw puzzles, notecards, greeting cards, coffee mugs and CDs. His works also found place on Walmart gift cards by December 2009. His company once claimed that his paintings find place in one American home out of every twenty.

According to reports, from 1997 to May 2005, the artist earned $53 million for his artwork. Hundreds of Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries existed in the US which however started faltering in the late-2000s recession. His production company Pacific Metro in Morgan Hill, California filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 2, 2010.

With time Kinkade emerged as one of the most counterfeited artists. The Kinkade studio claimed in 2011 that he was the most collected artist in Asia, however did not receive any income from there because of widespread forgery.

Although Kinkade is counted among the most commercially successful artists of the 1990s, the art critics often derided his work as being "kitsch". He also drew criticism for some of his business practices including the extent to which he commercialized his art; and for some of his personal conduct and accounts of alcohol-related incidents. He was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol in June 2010 in Carmel, California, and was later convicted. Media Arts Group Inc. was also charged with unfair dealings with owners of franchises of Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery and had to defend itself in several suits.

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He created a series of paintings called the Disney Dreams Collection in collaboration with the Disney Company which included ‘Beauty and the Beast Falling in Love’ (2010) and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (2011). He was made the featured artist for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era.

Many organisations chose him to celebrate milestones. These include Walt Disney World Resort's 35th anniversary and Disneyland's 50th anniversary. He was selected to paint the historic house museum, Biltmore House on canvas. In 2008, he introduced the commemorative painting of the 50th running of the NASCAR Cup Series motor race called the Daytona 500.

He published several books like ‘Lightposts for Living: The Art of Choosing a Joyful Life (1999)’ that included images of his paintings.

Philanthropic Pursuits & Recognitions

Kinkade supported several charitable organisations like ‘Make-a-Wish Foundation’, ‘Salvation Army’, and ‘World Vision’. He created two charity prints namely ‘The Season of Giving’ and ‘The Light of Freedom’ in 2002 in partnership with Salvation Army and donated sale proceeds of the prints to the charity which used them for their relief efforts at Ground Zero and to help victims of the September 11 attacks.

He was inducted into the California Tourism Hall of Fame and given the World Children's Center Humanitarian Award in 2002. Same year, Kinkade, Simon Bull and Howard Behrens were selected to commemorate the World Series and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

The ‘Thomas Kinkade Center for the Arts’ was dedicated by Archbishop Mitty High School of San Jose in 2003. Kinkade was selected as a National Spokesman for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2003 and at the time of the 20 Years of Light Tour in 2004; and as Ambassador of Light by the Points of Light Foundation in 2005.

Over the years, he received several awards including many National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED) awards. Art of was Kinkade was named Lithograph of the Year nine times.

Family & Personal Life

On May 2, 1982, Kinkade married Nanette Willey. Many of his works included the word ‘N’ representing Nanette while several others included the numbers 5282 as tribute to the couple’s wedding date. Their four daughters Merritt, Chandler, Winsor and Everett, all named after renowned artists, were born in 1988, 1991, 1995 and 1997 respectively. Reportedly the couple separated and Nanette filed for divorce two years before Kinkade’s death.

His brother Dr. Patrick Kinkade is attached with the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth as a professor in the university’s criminal justice department.
Kinkade died due to "acute intoxication" from alcohol and diazepam on April 6, 2012, in his Monte Sereno, California home and was interred at Madronia Cemetery in Saratoga, California.
After Kinkade’s death, Nanette sought a restraining order against Amy Pinto-Walsh, the artist’s girlfriend of 20 months, to stop the latter from publicly releasing information and photos related to the artist, his marriage, business, and behaviour that "would be personally devastating" for Nanette. The two ladies later announced in December 2012 that they had reached a private agreement. The following year, Nanette and the couple’s four daughters created ‘The Kinkade Family Foundation’, a 501c3 public charity that is dedicated to making art accessible to all.

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