The sad and somewhat tawdry end of Thomas Kinkade, the “painter of light,” who grew up in Placerville, created a standoff between his estranged wife and the girlfriend who was with him when he died April 6 from a combination of Valium and alcohol.
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The girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto, claimed to have two “barely legible” hand-written wills from Thomas Kinkade, laying claim to the 7,000-square-foot house, his studio next door and a warehouse full of original paintings on which the reproductions are based, reportedly decorating one in every 20 homes, and $10 million in cash to start a museum.
Kinkade’s wife Nanette had filed for legal separation six months before Kinkade and Pinto started dating, the girlfriend told San Jose Mercury-News writer Julia Prodis Sulek.
Nanette and the couple’s four daughters — Merritt, Chandler, Winsor and Everett — hustled back from Australia. Thomas Kinkade has a brother, Pat, who worked for Kinkade’s company.
Kinkade’s death led to a rush on stores featuring his artwork.
The standoff between the girlfriend and the wife ended late last month when lawyers for the two issued a statement saying. “Putting Mr. Kinkade’s message of love, spirituality and optimism at the forefront, the parties are pleased that they have honored Mr. Kinkade by resolving their differences amicably.”
A security guard had been on duty inside the gates of Kinkade’s Monte Sereno estate to make sure Pinto did not remove any estimated $66 million of artwork. She had agreed to pay $11,000 a month to live there.
Always said to be a religious man who credited God for his talent, he died on Good Friday.
Born in Sacramento in 1958, Kinkade moved to Placerville as a youth and graduated from El Dorado High School.
Kinkade, in conjunction with the Mountain Democrat in 1988 began selling prints and Christmas cards of local scenes he painted.
It was a formula he had established previously while working with his former high school English teacher the late Gordon Purdy, who was president of Friends of the Library. The library group sold enough prints to retain the painting and make money for the group. The painting of downtown Placerville at dusk in about 1916 hangs in the library.
Kinkade continued to return to Placerville through the 1990s as admirers lined up to buy prints and Christmas cards and have them signed by Kinkade personally.
Kinkade maintained a studio on Wallace Road near the Red Barn on Highway 49 just outside of Placerville, until he moved to Carmel.
“Since that day over 25 years ago, Thom has painted over 1,000 masterworks covering topics that include, cabin and nature scenes, beautiful gardens, classic cottages, sports, inspirational content, lighthouses and powerful seascapes, impressionists, and classic Americana. Hidden in his paintings are messages that speak to Thom’s inspiration for each image. Whether including the initials of family members, hiding Disney characters, or imbedding hearts for special occasions and loved ones, each image contains treasures that add to their mystique,” his Website stated.