Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Light and one of the most popular artists in America, died Friday at his California home.  He was 54.

In a statement, Kinkade's family spokesman said that the painter died at his Los Gatos home in San Francisco Bay Area of what appeared to be natural causes.

Thom provided a wonderful life for his family. We are shocked and saddened by his death, his wife, Nanette, said in the statement.

Kinkade characterized himself as Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light and claimed to be the nation's most collected living artist.

The artist was known for his depicting peaceful scenes with lush landscaping and streams running nearby.

There is no greater testament to Thom's mission that art be accessible for everyone to enjoy than the millions of Kinkade images that grace the walls of homes across America and around the world. Through a myriad of genres, Thom's ability to present his subject in an idyllic setting inspires the viewer to imagine the world full of beauty, intrigue, and adventure, according to Kinkade's website.

My mission as an artist is to capture those special moments in life adorned with beauty and light. I work to create images that project a serene simplicity that can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone. That's what I meant by sharing the light, Kinkade said.

I'm a warrior for light. With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel, Kinkade told the San Jose Mercury News in 2002, a reference to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine.

His paintings, which are hanging in an estimated 10 million homes in America, were said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales.

A biography on Kinkade's website said the artist rejected the intellectual isolation of the artist and instead, made each of his works an intimate statement that resonates in the personal lives of his viewers.

Born in the Placerville, Calif., he graduated from school in 1976. He attended University of California at Berkeley and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

He is survived by his wife Nanette and four daughters.