Painter Thomas Kinkade battled alcoholism over the past several years and had a relapse just before his death this month at his home in Santa Clara County, his brother, Patrick, said.
The self-described "Painter of Light" died in Monte Sereno on April 6 at age 54 of what a spokesman has said was natural causes. An autopsy is pending.
Kinkade's scenes of country gardens and pastoral landscapes led to a commercial empire of franchised galleries, reproduced artwork and spin-off products that was said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales. But it did not endear Kinkade with the art establishment, who criticized him for appearing to appeal to the widest possible audience.
Those attacks on his work and a split with his wife two years ago took a toll, and he turned to alcohol over the past four or five years, Patrick Kinkade told the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday ( http://bit.ly/HE0CA2). The artist was arrested outside Carmel, Calif., in 2010 on suspicion of driving under the influence. That same year, one of his companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"As much as he said it didn't bother him, in his heart deep down inside it would sadden him that people would criticize, so hatefully, his work and his vision, when people didn't understand him," Patrick Kinkade, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas Christian University, said.
Patrick Kinkade did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Friday.
He told the Mercury News his brother had sobered up and was painting until his relapse just before his death. Kinkade had been drinking all night and was not moving when authorities were called to his home, according to a recording of a dispatcher involved in the response.
Patrick Kinkade said his brother was a brilliant artist who painted pictures of the world the way he wanted it to be after growing up poor in the Sierra mountain town of Placerville.
"He wanted people to be affirmed by his work," he said. "But he was awfully human."
Information from: San Jose Mercury News, http://www.sjmercury.com