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William Thomas Kinkade III (January 19, 1958 – April 6, 2012) was an American painter of popular realistic, pastoral, and idyllic subjects. He is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via the Thomas Kinkade Company. He characterized himself as "Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light", a phrase he protected through trademark but which was originally used to describe the British master J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). According to Kinkade's company, one in every twenty American homes owns a copy of one of his paintings. Despite wide commercial success throughout his life, Kinkade is generally held in low esteem by art critics; his pastoral paintings have been described as maudlin and overly sentimental. William Thomas Kinkade was born on January 19, 1958, in Sacramento County, California. He grew up in the town of Placerville, graduated from El Dorado High School in 1976, and attended the University of California, Berkeley, and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He married Nanette Willey in 1982, and the couple had four daughters: Merritt (b. 1988), Chandler (b. 1991), Winsor (b. 1995) and Everett (b. 1997), all named for famous artists. He and his wife had been separated for over a year before his death in 2012. Some of the people who mentored and taught Kinkade prior to college were Charles Bell and Glenn Wessels. Wessels encouraged Kinkade to go to the University of California at Berkeley. Kinkade's relationship with Wessels is the subject of a semi-autobiographical film released in 2008, Christmas Cottage. After two years of general education at Berkeley, Kinkade transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In June 1980, Kinkade spent a summer traveling across the United States with his college friend James Gurney. The two of them finished their journey in New York and secured a contract with Guptill Publications to produce a sketching handbook. Two years later they produced The Artist's Guide to Sketching, which was one of Guptill Publications' best-sellers that year. The success of the book led them both to Ralph Bakshi Studios where they created background art for the 1983 animated feature film Fire and Ice. While working on the film, Kinkade began to explore the depiction of light and of imagined worlds. After the film, Kinkade earned his living as a painter, selling his originals in galleries throughout California. Recurring features of Kinkade's paintings are their glowing highlights and pastel colors. Rendered in highly idealistic values of American scene painting, his works often portray bucolic and idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, lighthouses and Main Streets. His hometown of Placerville (where his works are omnipresent) was the inspiration for many of his street and snow scenes. He also depicted various Christian themes including the Christian cross and churches. Kinkade said he was placing emphasis on the value of simple pleasures and that his intent was to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages through his paintings. A self-described "devout Christian" (even giving all four of his children the middle name "Christian"), Kinkade believed he gained his inspiration from his religious beliefs and that his work was intended to contain a larger moral dimension. He also said that his goal as an artist was to touch people of all faiths and to bring a sense of peace into their lives through the images he created. Many pictures contain specific chapter-and-verse allusions to Bible passages.
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