Meet Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade is the baby boomer generation's Norman Rockwell. He is America's most collected living artist. Renowned for infusing light into his paintings, creating romantic and tranquil scenes that seem to "glow" from within, each Kinkade painting affirms the basic values of family and home, faith in God, and the beauty of nature. "I paint glowing windows," he says, "because glowing windows say home to me." For the public, his work evokes an emotional element of nostalgia, of simpler, better times.

For art historians, things are a bit more complex. His work is reminiscent of a little-studied group of independent late 19th-century American painters known as the Luminists, who emphasized pastoral subjects. Kinkade says, "Like the Luminists, I strive for three visual aspects in my work: soft edges, a warm palette, and an overall sense of light." Thomas Kinkade's original paintings garner six-figure sums, and virtually everything he paints is reproduced in one form or another -- from hand-signed lithographs and canvas prints to books, posters, calendars, magazine covers, greeting cards, collector plates, figurines, and gift items. Annual retail sales of products displaying images based on Kinkade paintings is approximately $100 million -- and growing.

Kinkade sold his first painting for $7.50 when he was 12 years old, at a summer camp art exhibit. In 1995 Kinkade was named Artist of the Year by the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers and his "End of a Perfect Day III" was named Lithograph of the Year. His impressive list of honors includes two Certificates of Merit from the New York Society of Illustrates and two Founder's Awards from the National Park's Academy for the Arts -- the first artist to win twice. He names his induction as a charter member, along with Norman Rockwell (his idol), into the Bradford International Hall of Fame for plate artists as his crowning achievement.

Born in 1958, Kinkade grew up with a brother and sister in Placerville, a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. All Thom wanted from the age of four was paper and paints, and his biggest booster was his mother. "She would take my sketches, my paintings, and put a frame around them and hang them on the wall next to a Rembrandt reproduction." He still lives in Northern California, married to Nanette, his childhood sweetheart, since 1982. They have three daughters. He often pays tribute to his wife and children by hiding their names or initials within his paintings. Collectors eagerly watch for the "N's" in each work. A committed Christian, he also often inserts a Bible verse near his signature. He says he is frequently reminded that "God indeed has a purpose for these paintings. Matthew 5:16 tells us to let our light shine before men that they may see our good work and glorify our Father in Heaven. I believe my paintings are a literal outgrowth of that commission in scripture."

Thomas Kinkade died at his home in Northern California on April 6, 2012 at age 54, but his works continue to shine light into the darkness.

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