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Prominent US artist dies at 54

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP):

Artist Thomas Kinkade once said that he had something in common with Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell: He wanted to make people happy. And he won success with brushwork paintings that focused on idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches - highly popular works that became big sellers for dealers across the United States.

The self-described "Painter of Light," who died Friday at age 54, produced sentimental scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes in dewy morning light that were beloved by many but criticised by the art establishment.

Kinkade died at his home in Los Gatos in the San Francisco Bay Area of what appeared to be natural causes, said family spokesman David Satterfield.

He claimed to be the nation's most collected living artist, and his paintings and spin-off products were said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales, and to be in 10 million homes in the United States.

Those light-infused renderings are often prominently displayed in buildings, malls, and on products - generally depicting tranquil scenes with lush landscaping and streams running nearby. Many contain images from Bible passages.

'I'm a warrior for light'

"I'm a warrior for light," Kinkade, a self-described devout Christian, told the San José Mercury News in 2002, a reference to the medieval practice of using light to symbolise the divine. "With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel."

According to his website, Kinkade's paintings have been reproduced in hand-signed lithographs, canvas prints, books, posters, calendars, magazine covers, cards, collector plates and figurines. The website touts his Disney collection and offers a gallery locator, where fans can find nearby dealers.

"His artistic philosophy was not to express himself through his paintings like many artists, but rather to give the masses what they wanted: warm, positive images," Ken Raasch, who co-founded Kinkade's company with him, told the Mercury News.

Kinkade was born and raised in Placerville, California. He studied at the University of California at Berkeley and the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena.

There was no immediate word on an official cause of death.