Want Your Own Bob Ross? Prepare to Shell Out Millions

His first creation from 'The Joy of Painting' is now on offer in a rare sale
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2023 8:48 AM CDT

It was the very first time Bob Ross stood at his easel and taught the world how to paint. On the January 1983 premiere episode of The Joy of Painting, he crafted a woodland scene in autumn, a mix of warm browns and yellows. A Walk in the Woods, as it was titled, could now be yours—if you have $10 million to spare. Minneapolis gallery owner Ryan Nelson acquired the painting earlier this year from a volunteer at the PBS station in Falls Church, Virginia, where The Joy of Painting aired. The volunteer reportedly bought it for a measly sum at a fundraising auction for the station in November 1983, per CNN. Nelson has now listed it for sale for $9.85 million—a price tag that could make it "the most expensive and historically resonant Ross piece to ever be sold," NPR reports.

Painted in about 25 minutes with eight colors, the work features a tree-lined stone path leading to what Ross called a "rain puddle" in the foreground. To the right sits "a pretty little tree" with "some happy little leaves." To the left, the painter marked his signature, "Ross," in red. Nelson has previously done some trading in Ross' work and though he's never yet broken the six-figure range, he believes he'll get his asking price for this "truly irreplicable, one-of-a-kind painting" due in part to what it represents. As NPR reports, this is the first of 381 different paintings Ross created over 31 seasons of The Joy of Painting, which ultimately made him "one of the most recognizable faces in the 20th century art world" and "a pop culture icon."

Adding to the value is the fact that, amid a growing market for Ross' work triggered by what Nelson says is "nostalgia" and "social media," there seems to be surprisingly few examples on offer. As the New York Times reported in 2019, "If you want to buy a Bob Ross, you can't." Ross once said he created more than 30,000 paintings—reportedly including three versions of each one featured on The Joy of Painting—but their locations are largely unknown. Some 1,165 of his paintings are kept by Bob Ross Inc., but the company has no plans to sell them. If you want one but don't have $10 million, Nelson suggests keeping an eye out. "He sold them at malls, he gave them away at paintings lessons," he tells NPR. "So there are a lot of paintings that went out there." (More Bob Ross stories.)

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