Thomas Kinkade: ‘Painter of Light’ Died of Valium and Alcohol Overdose

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Artist Thomas Kinkade paints the 2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree November 30, 2007 in New York City.

It seems the “Painter of Light” had a dark side.

Thomas Kinkade, the artist whose homey, idealized images sold by the millions despite critical derision, died last month as a result of alcohol and drug use, according to a report by the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office.  The report listed Kinkade’s cause of death as “acute ethanol and Diazepam intoxication.” Diazepam is the active ingredient in Valium and is sometimes used to treat agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal, as well as anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures. The coroner listed the manner of death as “accident,” according to the local NBC affiliate, which posted a portion of the report to their website on Monday evening. Also contributing to Kinkade’s death, the report said, were “hypertensive and atherosclerotic heart disease.”

The painter made a hugely lucrative career out of his trademark landscapes — gauzy images of woodlands, lighthouses, and country cottages — that fetched up to $10,000 from eager collectors. According to one estimate, there is a Kinkade creation in one of every 20 homes in America.

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Behind the romantic pastel images, Kinkade’s personal life was far messier. A 2006 Los Angeles Times profile portrayed the artist as a ruthless businessman with a proclivity for public urination. The painter also struggled with alcoholism for years, and brother told the San Jose Mercury News that he had recently suffered a relapse. Kinkade’s family released a statement on the autopsy: “The family is sorting through a number of different issues and has not had an opportunity to fully review these results.”

Kinkade died April 6 at his home in Northern California at the age of 54.

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