April 8, 2012

Lights Out for Los Gatos Painter Thomas Kinkade

Here’s something to deepen your observation of Easter.  While devout Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, this man’s passing on Good Friday leads to a kind of different kind of immortality, and we are not talking about paintings.

Thomas Kinkade, one of nation’s most popular painters, dies suddenly in Los Gatos at 54

120407-kinkade-2002By Mike Rosenberg, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:  04/06/2012 06:43:30 PM PDT; Updated:  04/07/2012 03:41:26 AM PDT

Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” and one of the most popular artists in America, died suddenly Friday at his Los Gatos home. He was 54.

His family said in a statement that his death appeared to be from natural causes.

“Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,” his wife, Nanette, said in a statement. “We are shocked and saddened by his death.”

120407-kinkade-tasteHis paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States. Fans cite the warm, familiar feeling of his mass-produced works of art, while it has become fashionable for art critics to dismiss his pieces as tacky. In any event, his prints of idyllic cottages and bucolic garden gates helped establish a brand — famed for their painted highlights — not commonly seen in the art world.

“I’m a warrior for light,” Kinkade told the Mercury News in 2002, alluding not just to his technical skill at creating light on canvas but to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine. “With whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel.”


Now, if you want to instead refer to the Los Gatos Patch (an AOL-owned series of hyperlocal blogs), Kinkade actually died in Monte Sereno, while with his live-in girlfriend, as he had been estranged from his wife for two years.  That would explain why his family was in Australia at the time of his death.  Kincade’s passing is indeed relevant to the Real Bay Area, since he lived in Los Gatos.  Or Monte Sereno, depending on which reported version you prefer.  But this scan of the firefighters’ frequency shows an engine was dispatched to 16342 Ridgecrest Ave, due to a 54 year old male “drinking all night, not moving.”  That address is owned by someone named Kinkade, and also had an “under influence of drugs/alcohol” arrest there last year.  The address is missing from most property databases, though, including the Recorder’s Office.

120407-kinkade-vallejo-village-at-hiddenbrookeKinkade certainly has his staunch supporters and determined detractors.  This Mercury News article generated 150 comments in just a few hours and had more than 250 by the following afternoon.  Most Merc articles draw under 20 comments.  The NY Times obituary generated an even more derisive stream of criticism, while the Washington Post put the negative commentary in the article itself.  The daddy of all Kinkade-dissing news items has to go to this 2006 Los Angeles Times piece, though.

But there’s an aspect of Thomas Kinkade that had managed to elude us all this time.  It turns out that his kitschy paintings of cottages in the woods inspired multiple housing developments.

That’s right, for the fan who isn’t content with buying a snowglobe or a throw rug, there were plans for actual tract houses trying to look like his paintings.    And one of the first such developments, the Village at Hiddenbrooke, was built in Vallejo right as dot.com went dot.bomb in 2001.  4259 Andover, The Villages at HiddenbrookeThe homes were 1800-2600 square feet on 4000 square foot lots.  The large photo above is interior décor from one of those model homes.  Most of the links to the builder and the development in the Salon article are now defunct.

It’s not easy figuring out which streets in Hiddenbrooke are part of The Village.  And given that the builder was London-based, that’s a particularly interesting name for a community accused of being somewhat, um, ersatz.  Here’s a home that sold last year, and do check out its history, because it sold for less in 2011 than when it was sold new nine years beforehand.  You can check out the neighborhood on Redfin but nothing seems to be for sale there now.

However, Kinkade did not stop with just the one housing development in Vallejo.

Architect Rann Haight, left, financier Roger Stewart, center, and builder Steve Torres have signed a deal to build luxury homes that will be based on the Thomas Kinkade paintings on the table in front of them in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, April 21, 2006. The luxury homes, to be built around Lake Coeur d'Alene, will cost $4 million to $6 million. (AP Photo/SPOKESMAN-REVIEW, Jesse Tinsley)The photo at right shows the team planning for five Kinkade-inspired $4 to $6 million luxury homes around Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho named The Gates of Coeur d’Alene.  This project was launched in (of course) 2006, at the height of bubblicious housing insanity.

Plans for 100 homes based on the cottage paintings were being developed later that winter for a project in Columbia, Missouri called The Gates at Old Hawthorne.  Prices were expected to come in at $500,000 to $1 million.  It’s not clear if any of these plans came to fruition, as the builder’s website no longer seems to exist.  This 2007 article reflects the typical attitude of housing boosters, acknowledging the slowdown but insisting that It’s Special Here and full steam ahead for the Kinkade development:

120407-kinkade--missouriThe homes are being built at a time when the U.S. home market is declining. However, Columbia and Boone County have been able to avoid the national trend. The median price for new single-family homes in Boone County has steadily increased, going from around $136,000 in May 2003 to a little over $188,000 in May of this year. And while the price of new homes is rising, the number of homes being built has decreased from 79 single-family units in May 2003 to 52 this May.

“In general, our home market is good, (but) it’s not as good as last year’s,” said Brent Jones, president of the Columbia Board of Realtors. According to Jones, the present home market is a buyer’s market. The effects of the market are even more apparent in the sale of high-end houses, like the Kinkade homes. […]

“News stories give the idea that the market is homogenous,” Jones said. He cited cities that have experienced extreme home appreciation, and are now experiencing just as extreme depreciation. The Columbia market is relatively stable and hasn’t had the appreciation that other markets have experienced, .

However, market fluctuations are not a concern for HST.

“One of the reasons we came to Columbia is because Columbia’s economy is so strong,” Stewart said. Sales of the Kinkade houses are surpassing the inventory, Stewart added.

120407-kinkade-empty-caveThere is no evidence that either of these Kinkade-inspired home developments were ever built.  Most references to them are from 2006, when everyone was drunk on Kool-aid.  Here’s an application for an alternative use for the Missouri land, which suggests nothing was ever built from the Kinkade project.  The Gates of Old Hawthorne website is gone, and here are some empty lots for sale from that project.

Just like the empty cave in today’s Holiday Story.

Have yourselves a Happy Easter, and remember: This means Spring Bounce has begun!

Comments (19) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

19 Responses to “Lights Out for Los Gatos Painter Thomas Kinkade”

  1. nomadic Says:

    Excellent! You answered my WTF questions!

    For anyone bummed out that nothing is for sale at his development in Vallejo, it’s your lucky day!

  2. madhaus Says:

    Thanks, nomadic, but the Kinkade development is just one of several at Hiddenbrooke. Only “The Village” are the homes you are looking for. If you look at this map, you’ll see that The Village is on the other arm of Bennington Drive (Summer Gate Ave leads into The Village). (Hmmm, the original development maps had Bennington looping through; looks like they cut the street apart.)

    Yeah, there were several WTFs from the original Murky News piece that The Patch answered. I’m sure plenty more will come out, but how many people die of “natural causes” at age 54?

  3. nomadic Says:

    Awww, my dreams are shattered. The house appeared to have that faux cottage look Kinkade so adored.

    P.S. You’re right about Bennington. It clearly is connected on satellite view, but is cut off on the Google map.

  4. SEA Says:

    “how many people die of “natural causes” at age 54?”

    My guess is that more males die of natural causes at age 54 than 30 or 85.

  5. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    I knew his number was up. They always go in threes. Saddam, Osama, and Kinkade.

  6. madhaus Says:

    My guess is that more males die of natural causes at age 54 than 30 or 85.

    You guess? Why would you make such a statement when the data are so easily available?

    The median life expectancy for a US male, at birth, is 75.96 years. That’s AT BIRTH. Median life expectancy for a California male, at birth, is 77.80 years.

    Allow me to suggest that 77.8, or even 76 years, is a lot closer to 85 than it is to 54. But why guess how many males die at 54 versus 30 or 85, when the CDC is already measuring it for us?

    Here are the 2008 statistics for US males:

    Number of deaths at age 30: 2,895
    Number of deaths at age 54: 14,369
    Number of deaths at age 85: 33,889

    These are totals. If you want just the white males (which describes Kinkade), the numbers are even more convincing that death at 54 more unusual than at 85, and mind you, these are for ALL DEATHS in the US, not just “natural causes.”

    30: 2,127
    54: 11,334
    85: 30,939

    Go wild with CDC’s mortality tables if you want to narrow it down to cause of death.

  7. nomadic Says:

    Seems bizarre to argue that fewer males die of natural causes at 85 than 54… is the theory they die behind the wheel or from drug overdose (euthanasia)?

  8. Divasm Says:

    I used to take pictures in front of his galleries when on vacation, with a look on my face saying, “Really? Another one?” This was a big enough deal that I got multiple texts from friends telling me he died…and I’m sitting here reading that 1 in 20 Americans had his art and once again I have that”Really?” look on my face.

    Regardless, nice piece of intrepid replying there on COD. I assumed he had a heart attack, would that not be considered natural causes?

  9. SEA Says:

    “The median life expectancy for a US male, at birth, is 75.96 years. That’s AT BIRTH. Median life expectancy for a California male, at birth, is 77.80 years.”

    A little higher than I expected. Without looking, I should have increased the upper age to 95.

  10. SEA Says:

    “Seems bizarre to argue that fewer males die of natural causes at 85 than 54… is the theory they die behind the wheel or from drug overdose (euthanasia)?”

    I very much doubt the distribution is Gaussian.

  11. madhaus Says:

    Well, natural causes just means that there was no outside interference causing the death, and it usually comes down to either illness or organ failure. So yes, a heart attack (which seemed to be the most common cause of death to 50-55 YO California men, and yes, I checked) would be natural causes. But dying as a result of intoxication could be classified as either an accident or a suicide.

    There will be an autopsy tomorrow and I’m sure the news agencies will make sure we learn the findings. Also there’s a follow-up article in the Merc that’s still pretty tame given some of the other sites linked to above, and most of the comments are furious with the reporter for disrespecting the dead.

    They also thought his use of the term “darker side” to describe the financial problems and the DUI arrest was overwrought. Too bad the reporter didn’t mention the separation, the live-in girlfriend, the arrest at his house, or the FBI investigation into whether he manipulated the price of his company’s stock.

    Heh. They should read some of the other reportage if they think that’s anything.

  12. madhaus Says:

    I very much doubt the distribution is Gaussian.

    One would hope you would have learned something about guessing these things. One would hope.

  13. SEA Says:

    I’m likely right about the Gaussian aspect:

    “The median life expectancy for a US male, at birth, is 75.96 years.”

    If it’s Gaussian, then that’s the mean too.

    “Here are the 2008 statistics for US males:

    Number of deaths at age 30: 2,895”

    So if the distribution were Gaussian, then there would be 2,895 deaths at age 121. How many people live over 100, much less over 120.

  14. SEA Says:

    In regards to cause of death, there are four that I know about:

    1. Homicides
    2. Natural deaths
    3. Accidental deaths
    4. Suicides

  15. madhaus Says:

    Other causes:

    – misadventure (fun things like being attacked by wildlife)
    – war
    – terrorism
    – execution

    This is getting away from Kinkade’s death, though. I did find an article about a 32 year old woman dying of a heart attack and explaining why that was considered “natural causes.” I’m wondering if the firefighter radio call did apply to Kinkade, how would a death resulting from excessive drinking be classified.

    Here we go:

    Codes for alcohol-induced deaths
    Causes of death attributable to alcohol-induced mortality include
    ICD–10 codes E24.4, Alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome;
    F10, Mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol use; G31.2,
    Degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; G62.1, Alcoholic
    polyneuropathy; G72.1, Alcoholic myopathy; I42.6, Alcoholic cardi­
    omyopathy; K29.2, Alcoholic gastritis; K70, Alcoholic liver disease;
    K85.2, Alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis; K86.0, Alcohol-induced
    chronic pancreatitis; R78.0, Finding of alcohol in blood; X45, Acci­
    dental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; X65, Intentional
    self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; and Y15, Poisoning by
    and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent. Alcohol-induced
    causes exclude accidents, homicides, and other causes indirectly
    related to alcohol use, as well as newborn deaths associated with
    maternal alcohol use.

  16. Michael Boltonestater Says:

    His ‘art’ makes great house warming party gifts, especially in mid-century modern houses.

    I certainly would not want that in my own place.

  17. Dr. Chorillo Says:

    I don’t get the hate for this guy. He’s a harmless purveyor of “art for people who don’t like art.” It’s not my cup of watery lukewarm tea, but if my wife’s cousin likes it, whatevs. As always, if you don’t like it, go to Russia.

  18. Alex Says:

    Ok you rookies

    Myocardial infarction (potentially induced by coke binge) is still natural cause =pppp

  19. madhaus Says:

    In the spirit of this article, I must share these two Kinkade links.

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