Thomas Kinkade dead: Autopsy planned in unexpected death

thomas-kinkade-art-paintings-christmas-winter-disneyAn autopsy will be conducted on Monday (April 9) on the body of artist and self-proclaimed "Painter of Light" Thomas Kinkade, who died unexpectedly on Friday at his home in Los Gatos, Calif., at the age of 54.

A statement from Kinkade's family claims the artist died of natural causes, but the Santa Clara County coroner is holding off on declaring an official cause of death until an autopsy can be conducted on his body.

"Thom provided a wonderful life for his family," his wife Nanette says of the artist in a statement to the San Jose Mercury News. "We are shocked and saddened by his death."

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

In recent years, the artist had been locked in legal battles with several former Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners. The empire of mall galleries had started to crumble during the recession and Kinkade's Morgan Hill art company filed for bankruptsy in 2010, citing more than $6 million in creditors' claims, reports the Contra Costa Times.

Kinkade also battled addiction and was charged with driving under the influence near Carmel, Calif., in 2010.