Thomas Kinkade
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Painter Thomas Kinkade died at his Los Gatos home Friday. He was 54.

The cause of Kinkade’s death remains unknown, but the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office has scheduled an autopsy. Los Gatos police declined to comment Saturday about the circumstances surrounding the artist’s death, referring questions to the coroner’s office.

In a statement, his family on Friday night attributed the death to natural causes.

“He was kind of a bigger-than-life character,” said Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice. “The community and the art world have lost quite an individual.”

At one time, more than 350 independently owned stores were licensed to deal exclusively in Kinkade’s landscapes and street scenes. Kinkade’s Morgan Hill company collapsed into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. The fine-art world always derided Kinkade’s work as little more than commercially successful kitsch, but the massive popularity of the self-described “painter of light” allowed Kinkade to create a national network of several hundred Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries, an empire that began to falter during the Great Recession.

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