Painter Thomas Kinkade had relapse with alcoholism

(Reuters) - Thomas Kinkade, the self-styled "Painter of Light", battled alcoholism for several years and had a relapse before he died unexpectedly last week, according to his brother.

Patrick Kinkade told the San Jose Mercury News in an interview that a split with his wife, attacks on his work by art critics and financial troubles took their toll on his brother, and he turned to the bottle in the last four or five years.

"He would shoulder the world, pull the naysayers on his back and smile when he was doing it," Patrick Kinkade told the northern California 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," Kinkade added.

Kinkade, 54, died on April 6 at his home in Los Gatos, south of San Francisco. A fire department dispatch, released by amateur scanning group firescan.net, sent emergency workers to his home with the message, "Fifty-four year old male unconscious, not breathing. Apparently he's been drinking all night and not moving."

Results of an autopsy on Kinkade are pending.

Kinkade was arrested for drunk driving in 2010, his company filed for bankruptcy in the same year, and he also split up with his wife.

Demand for his paintings, which depict romantic visions of cottages, churches and gardens infused with light, has risen since his death.

Patrick Kinkade said that his brother had sobered up in recent months and had been in his studio "painting religiously" but that the night before he died he started drinking again.

"He believed in God. He loved his daughters. He wanted people to be affirmed by his work. But he was awfully human," Kinkade told the newspaper.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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