Kinkade’s art also went beyond galleries through the “Thomas Kinkade lifestyle brand”. This wasn’t just the usual art gallery giftshop schlock: Kinkade sealed a tie-in with La-Z-Boy furniture (home of the big butt recliner) for a Kinkade-inspired range of furniture. But arguably his only great artwork was “The Village, a Thomas Kinkade Community”, unveiled in 2001. A 101-home development in Vallejo, outside San Francisco, operating under the slogan: “Calm, not chaos. Peace, not pressure,” the village offers four house designs, each named after one of Kinkade’s daughters. Plans for further housing developments, alas, fell foul of the housing crisis.
In the years before his death, Kinkade’s business and his life took a battering. There were allegations of malpractice, and his company declared bankruptcy, unable to pay its creditors following a series of court judgments ordering him to pay $860,000 for defrauding the owners of two failed franchises.
Following his separation from his wife and spiralling alcoholism, Kinkade’s behaviour became erratic: he allegedly caused a scene at a Siegfried & Roy show in Las Vegas by repeatedly shouting “Codpiece!” at the ageing illusionists. He also engaged in what he termed “ritual territory marking” at a California Disneyland hotel, urinating on a Winnie the Pooh figure.