An Antiques Roadshow episode filmed in Anchorage in 2023 featured a few local guests who brought paintings to appraise. The five paintings were all Alaska scenes: mountains, a cabin at night, and the Northern Lights. They all were stamped by the painter Bob Ross, best known as the host of The Joy of Painting, which ran on PBS for 31 seasons from 1984 to 1994. And they were all valued at $15,000 to $20,000.

These paintings were part of a group called the Alaskan Oil Paintings, done in the 1970s, pre-dating The Joy of Painting. At the time, Bob Ross was at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska. His signature style was already developing, as seen in the paintings’ peaceful nature scenes (complete with “happy little trees”) and the use of light and color.

The evaluation came as a pleasant surprise to the guests, who had either received the paintings as gifts or bought them inexpensively. One was $12 at the Salvation Army; another, $5 at a Quonset hut sale. To appraiser Laura Woolley, this speaks to the lasting appeal of Bob Ross and his paintings. A fan herself, she calls Ross “the reason I picked up a paintbrush for the first time” and knows that many others have a similar emotional connection. Ross made painting accessible and enjoyable, guiding viewers through the process of painting with an accessible, encouraging teaching style that earned him a place in fans’ hearts.

And if a painting you bought for $5 gets evaluated for $20,000, how’s that for making art accessible?

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