Thomas Kinkade with his paintings
Michael A. Jones/Sacramento Bee/ZUMA
04/13/2012 at 12:25 PM EDT
His lush painted landscapes may have depicted an ultra idealized world, but artist Thomas Kinkade was battling his darkest side, his brother claims, saying that right before his April 6 death
Kinkade had returned to his alcoholic past.
Thomas, 54, fought against the disease for four or five years, had sobered up, but over the past few months suffered a relapse that led right up to his death a week ago, Patrick Kinkade tells the San Jose Mercury News
While an autopsy is currently underway
, a spokesman said last week that Kinkade died of natural causes. In a recording of the 911 call from the artist's house, it is stated that Kinkade he had been drinking the entire night and was not moving.
Patrick Kinkade, an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas Christian University, says some of Thomas's inner demons stemmed from the dismissive attitude of the serious critics toward his work, despite the high prices they commanded, their enormous mass-market appeal and the almost-religious devotion collectors had toward them.
"He would shoulder the world, pull the naysayers on his back and smile when he was doing it," Patrick tells the newspaper. "As much as he said it didn't bother him, in his heart deep down inside it would sadden him that people would criticize so hatefully his work and his vision when people didn't understand him."
Coupled with some financial reversals in his business
, another setback that reactivated Kinkade's drinking, says his brother, was Thomas's split from his wife, Nanette, and their four daughters, in 2010.
A friend, Pete Jillo, tells the Mercury News
that drinking made Kinkade argumentative, and he was tossed out of a local bar.
"He loved Nanette and was heartbroken," said Jillo, adding that Kinkade tried to stay sober so he could see his daughters. But the alcohol got the better of him.
"There's no hypocrisy in Tom's vision," his brother says. "What you're looking at is a man. He believed in God. He loved his daughters. He wanted people to be affirmed by his work. But he was awfully human."