American painter Thomas Kinkade died on Friday at the young age of 54 in his California home. His family was "shocked and saddened" by his death. While usually dismissed by critics in the art world, Kinkade will live on in American homes next to Norman Rockwell paintings (an artist he called one of his "earliest heros"). His paintings usually featured warm scenes of cottages in the winter, churches, or pictures of streetlights in the evening. He is widely reported to be "wildly popular."
Kinkade's paintings and prints reportedly ran up over $100 million in sales per year, and his paintings apparently hang in over 10 million homes across America. His Media Arts Group company took in $32 million a quarter before going private in the middle part of the last decade. It's difficult to build a $100 million art empire without losing a few friends, though. This 2006 L.A. Times story details some of the legal disputes Kinkade's dealers have brought against his company, and challenges his god-fearing reputation.
Kinkade died of natural causes.