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Thomas Kinkade's Troubled Past: Was He Drinking Heavily Before His Death?

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Last Friday when Thomas Kinkade's girlfriend, Amy Pinto, made the 911 call, it seems that he was in a very different situation than the one she initially relayed to the San Jose Mercury News earlier this week. Pinto said that Kinkade "died in his sleep, very happy, in the house he built, with the paintings he loved, and the woman he loved." However, the Daily reports that at 11:16 a.m. on Friday, a Santa Clara County emergency dispatcher described a "54-year-old male, unconscious, not breathing. Apparently he has been drinking all night and not moving ... CPR in progress." The man in question was Kinkade, who would die at 54 with a questionable legacy.

On one hand, Kinkade is depicted as "The Painter of Light," an Evangelical Christian artist who brought joy to many Americans through his lithographic reproductions of bucolic nature scenes and quaint homes. "Art is forever," Thomas Kinkade said in a 2007 interview with "60 Minutes." "It goes front and center on your wall, where everyday the rest of your life you see that image. And it is shaping your children, it's shaping your life." Through his images, many Americans have found a painter who speaks to their hopes and desires. One HuffPost commenter wrote, "I've collected things depicting his art work for many years, and I'm still fascinated by each and every piece. Such beautiful landscapes and serene scenes...to me, America lost one of it's [sic] greatest talents."

But the other side paints a picture of Kinkade that is less than angelic. A 2006 LA Times article lists the following incidents: "an allegedly drunken Kinkade heckled illusionists Siegfried and Roy; cursed a former employee's wife who came to his side when he fell off a barstool; fondled a startled woman's breasts at a signing party; and urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim." Kinkade was facing a number of arbitration claims from owners of his galleries across the country, and the LA Times reports that one gallery filed for bankruptcy in 2010. The lawyer on the case referred to Kinkade as a "deadbeat" and went on to say that "Kinkade's word is as worthless as his artwork." At the time of his death, Kinkade owed about $9 million to at least 165 creditors, Newser reports.

In her original profile of the "Painter of Light," Susan Orlean writes, "It's hard to distinguish one Kinkade from the next, because their effect is so unvarying...as if [they were] painted by someone who hadn't been outside in a long time." And yet, their popular appeal is undeniable. A collection of his unreleased work includes "perhaps hundreds" of paintings and sketches, the Daily reports. However, The Thomas Kinkade Company doesn't yet have a specific date when these images will be released, so fans will have to keep waiting.

What do you think of these recent revelations? Does this cloud your view of the artist?

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