Thomas Kinkade with his paintings
Michael A. Jones/Sacramento Bee/ZUMA
04/07/2012 at 01:00 PM EDT
, the popular painter, has died. He was 54.
Said to be one of America's most collected living artists, Kinkade was known for his distinctively sentimental, often religiously-themed landscapes.
Though heavily criticized in the art world for his style – which bordered on kitsch – Kinkade produced a body of work that was estimated to fetch an average of $100 million in sales each year.
The self-described "painter of light" – who likened himself to Walt Disney and his hero, Norman Rockwell, in his desire to make people happy – died Friday at home in Los Gatos, Calif., outside San Francisco, of what appeared to be natural causes.
A devout Christian, Kinkade often painted scenes from the Bible. In 2002 he told the San Jose Mercury News
he was a "warrior of light."
"With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel,” he said. Kinkade also frequently hid the names of his wife and four daughters in his work.
"Thom provided a wonderful life for his family," his wife Nanette told the Associated Press
Saturday in a statement. "We are shocked and saddened by his death."